A 26-year-old man is facing kidnapping, robbery and child abuse charges after trying to steal a 14-year-old girl's cell phone at a community park on the Westside on Sunday evening, police said.
An innocent trip to the playground for three 14-year-old girls -- Emily Mynes, Chloe Crawford and Laila Hoffman -- ended in tears and the arrest of Mitchell Ryan Selph.
According to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office report, citizens saw a 14-year-old girl running from a man and screaming about 8:10 p.m. on Rockpond Meadows Drive.
A citizen chased Selph to the corner of Hammond Boulevard and Crystal Springs Road, where an off-duty officer subdued him until police arrived to arrest him.
The girls told News4Jax that Selph (pictured in JSO booking photo) approached them while they were on the swing set and starting talking to them, and they told him to go away.
“When he approached us, he looked pretty suspicious looking, and he looked pretty rough -- a lot older than he was, lot older than 26,” Emily said. “I thought he was in his 40s. Pretty scary, and I didn't want to have anything to do with him.”
Neither did her friends.
One of the girls told News4Jax that Selph told her to get down from the swing set because he had something to show her, and he pulled at his pants. The girl gave Emily a look of concern at that point, and Emily said that's when she attempted to dial 911 on her cell phone.
Emily said Selph tried to grab her phone, and when she wouldn't let go, he hit her in the face.
“After he hit me... I wear glasses and my glasses were off,” Emily said. “I couldn't see, and it was worse because of my eye, and I couldn't see at all, and I was all over the place.”
Chloe stayed on top of the swing set and Laila, the third girl, took off running. The girls said Selph chased Laila for a bit, then came back and began wrestling Emily on the ground again for the phone.
The arrest report said he grabbed Emily by the ankles and started dragging her toward the woods. Then, he took off running.
“My first reaction after he attacked, I started screaming and yelling for help and just hoping someone would hear and come and help,” Emily said.
The girls said an off-duty police officer, who was fishing just across the pond, saw the incident unfold, and the arrest report said he ran back to his house, jumped into his patrol car and chased Selph. He eventually tackled him to the ground and waited for officers to arrive.
According to JSO spokesman Christian Hancock, the off-duty officer, Davis Busekrus, suffered a minor injury while retaining Selph.
“'How coincidental that there was an off-duty JSO officer just down the street,” said Elliot Hoffman, Laila's father. “Godsend. Honestly, someone looking out and over them. Someone looking out for all of us.”
Emily had only minor injuries and was back home with her family Sunday night.
“It's heartdropping. Very heartdropping,” Elliot Hoffman said. “Makes you feel like you have no control, all the control is in his hands. It makes you feel at a weak point.”
Selph was booked into the Duval County jail and was due to appear before a judge Monday afternoon, but his appearance was waived.
He is charged with attempted robbery, attempted kidnapping, resisting an officer and child abuse. His next court appearance is tentatively scheduled in August.
News4Jax learned that Selph has a long history of arrests, most for theft. He had only been out of jail since May 8 after serving a 42-day sentence for petit theft.