SAFETY HARBOR, Fla. - Pinellas County deputies arrested a disabled man Saturday who's accused of kidnapping and molesting a 9-year-old girl in Safety Harbor.
According to detectives, Paul Morgan, 63, is a resident at the Harbor Point Assisted Living Facility on Harbor Lake Drive. Neighbors told FOX 13 Morgan is known to come and go from the facility, riding his bicycle to the downtown area and back.
Investigators said Morgan saw three young girls playing in a yard Saturday, struck up a conversation with a 9-year-old, and then tried to take advantage of her.
"When she refused, he immediately grabbed her, put her in a bear hug and started dragging her to the back of the residence," said Sgt. Spencer Gross, a spokesperson for the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office. "She fought her attacker, and she didn't give up, and she continued to struggle with him until she was able to break free."
She managed to escape, but not before deputies said Morgan inappropriately touched the little girl.
Her two friends, ages 6 and 4, tried to help.
"They were courageous," Gross said. "They weren't going to let their friend be victimized by this guy, and they followed him back behind the house and continued yell at him and luckily they were all able to get away from him."
After it was over and deputies were called, they arrested Morgan.
"One thing we can take away from this though is the victim did everything that we would tell a child to do in this situation," Gross said.
Gross said Morgan wasn't on their radar as a potentially dangerous criminal. His previous run-ins with the sheriff's office were for minor bicycle and pedestrian infractions.
The Harbor Point Assisted Living Facility has not yet returned FOX 13's calls.
The state attorney will have to decide whether to pursue moving Morgan to a more secure facility.