Police searching for 2nd suspect, described as woman of ‘Middle Eastern descent’
By LEO HOHMANN
KENNESAW, Ga. — A suburban Atlanta shopping mall was the scene of a brazen attempt to kidnap a child Tuesday night, and one of the two suspects is behind bars, thanks to the quick action of the girl’s dad and a couple of Good Samaritans who happened to be in the right place at the right time.
An 11-year-old girl was ambushed inside the women’s bathroom by a man who held a knife to her throat, and police say she likely would have been kidnapped, or worse, if not for her loud screams and ability to escape the man’s clutches.
After that, her father and two other men made quick work of the suspect.
Cobb County police have 26-year-old Danzell Mitchell in custody but are still searching for a possible female accomplice, who is described as having dark hair and olive skin, possibly of Middle Eastern descent, said Sgt. Wayne Delk.
The woman is in her 30s, of thin build and wearing a pink shirt.
The incident happened about 6:30 p.m. at the Town Center Mall in Kennesaw, which is a college town about 25 miles northwest of Atlanta, the home of Kennesaw State University.
The girl was at the mall with her family, eating dinner in the bustling food court when she asked to go to the restroom. Her dad escorted her to the women’s restroom and waited outside the door. She told police she went into the bathroom, did not notice anyone else inside, and entered one of the stalls.
But when she came out of the stall, a black man grabbed her and held a knife to her throat.
“He told her not to scream, but of course she did scream and that startled him enough that she was able to get away from him,” Delk said.
She ran out to her father.
Less than a minute later, Mitchell exited the women’s restroom. The girl’s dad was waiting for him.
The girl pointed out her attacker when he came out of the bathroom and her father confronted the man. Mitchell ran.
That’s when two other men, described by police as “Good Samaritans” whom the dad did not know, joined in to help the father chase after Mitchell. They tackled him and held him at bay until authorities arrived.
LeoHohmann.com reported in March on an eerily similar case of an attempted rape in the women’s bathroom of a community college in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Jael Cruz was at the mall when she saw the commotion. She told Fox 5 News that when she got close enough to take the photo and saw the look in his eyes, she felt a chill down her spine.
“He had an empty stare in his eyes,” said Cruz.
Cruz said she’s proud of the little girl for acting quickly and getting away and she knows she won’t be able to forget the fear she saw in the child.
“It was heartbreaking. I have her beautiful little face in my head,” Cruz told Fox 5.
The lesson to be learned here, is parents can no longer let their children go into a public bathroom alone. Even adult women must be extremely alert and cautious when entering restrooms, which are increasingly seen as soft targets for rapists and kidnappers.
Delk said that after the three men had subdued the suspect, they sat him down in a chair in the food court and waited for police to arrive. That’s when the three men observed him “mouthing something to the woman” who was standing nearby, Delk said.
“They were making eye contact and obviously trying to communicate something to each other,” Delk explained. “We are hoping to be able to identify the woman, but he’s not given us any information on her as of yet.”
Delk said Mitchell has a previous criminal record and could have other victims.
“We are desperately trying to find this woman because there is always the possibility this may not be their first attempt [at kidnapping],” Delk said.
Mitchell is being held without bond in the Cobb County Detention Center on charges of attempted kidnapping, aggravated assault, false imprisonment and first-degree cruelty to children.
Police were able to recover the knife, described as something larger than a pocket knife.
“It was not the normal type of knife a person would carry on them. It was a distinctly different knife, which of course is one of the things that lent credence to this case,” Delk said, adding that the weapon was exactly as the girl described it.
Deputy Police Chief Stuart VanHoozer, at a press conference Wednesday, was asked if sex trafficking is a motive in this crime. He said he’s not sure.
“This is an unusual case,” he said. “I don’t know if that was the motive here, but it’s possibly one of them.”
Police are also asking anyone who took video of the incident to call them as they continue their investigation.