The 13-year-old Tacoma girl did exactly the right thing.
When the strange man offered to give her a ride, she said no. When he flashed money and told her to get in the car, she ran into the house and called police – but not before she punched the car’s license number into her phone.
The Thursday 911 call led to an arrest by Tacoma Police and more: a charge of child luring, coupled with the discovery of 37 grams of black tar heroin and an added charge of drug possession.
The defendant, Alejandro Carreno-Velez, 30, pleaded not guilty at his arraignment Friday. At the time of his arrest, he denied trying to lure the girl, according to the police report and court records. He couldn’t deny the heroin police found in his pocket, but he denied he was trying to sell it.
“Fortunately, the young victim did everything right in this case,” said Prosecutor Mark Lindquist. “She said no, she ran home, and she even memorized the defendant’s license plate.”
Police responded to the initial call at about 4 p.m. Thursday. The girl had been visiting a friend and started walking home in the 400 block of South 35th Street. She noticed a car, a beige-colored 1994 Honda Accord, slowly following her.
As she reached home, the car stopped and the driver hailed her.
“Do you need a ride?” he asked.
The girl said no. The man held up money – a handful of $20 bills.
“Get in the car if you want some money,” the man said.
The girl ran inside and called 911.
When police arrived, she told the story again as her grandfather stood by. She said she’d been taught how to react in such situations.
“She did a great job,” said Loretta Cool, Tacoma police spokeswoman.
A trace of the license plate led police to an address in Tacoma, as well as a separate investigation out of Lakewood, tied to a narcotics investigation.
Police checked the Tacoma address twice Thursday, and found no trace of the Accord or the driver. A second address tied to the car marked a spot just outside city limits, in the 7600 block of 10th Avenue Court East, several blocks from Charlotte’s Blueberry Park.
Police saw the car parked in front of the address. At first, it looked empty. Then the driver, later identified as Carreno-Velez, leaned up, holding a computer tablet. His seat had been reclined.
He stepped out of the car without being asked. Was he the owner of the car? At first he said no – vehicle records said the opposite.
“Who are you looking for?” he asked the officers.
The officers said they were looking for the person driving the car.
Knowing of the drug investigation as well as the child-luring call, officers frisked the man. He had something in his left pocket: three packets of heroin.
Officers cuffed him and sat him in a patrol car. He said he didn’t understand them. He’d understood them at first, the report notes. Asked if he spoke Spanish, he nodded. Officers brought in an officer who spoke Spanish, who read Carreno-Velez his rights and asked him questions.
Carreno-Velez said he’d bought the heroin, but wasn’t intending to sell it, according to the police report. He denied trying to lure the girl.
Officers arranged an on-site visit, asking the girl and her grandfather to take a look at the man. She could see him. He couldn’t see her.
Arriving at the scene, the girl looked at Carreno-Velez and said he was the man who called to her.
Bail for Carreno-Velez was set at $150,000. His trial was set for Feb. 27.
Sean Robinson: 253-597-8486