Family catches homeless man sexually assaulting disabled 87-year-old, Calif. cops say

A Southern California family fought off a man who broke into their home and sexually assaulted their disabled 87-year-old grandmother last week, according to police.

Garden Grove police responded to the assault report around 1:30 a.m. Friday at a home in northern Orange County, where officers discovered the family members holding a 33-year-old homeless suspect in the backyard, police said in a news release.

The family didn’t know the attacker. Officers described the grandmother as “disabled and dependent,” as well as nonverbal, KABC reports.

Police said noise from the attack in progress woke up the woman’s granddaughter, City News Service reports.

“She ran over to assist and grabbed him by the arm, yanking on him and pulling on him, screaming for help,” Garden Grove police Lt. Carl Whitney said of the granddaughter, City News Service reports. “That woke up the rest of the family and he started fighting with them and that spilled over into the backyard.”

Police said they arrested the unidentified man and booked him at the Orange County Jail.

“It’s shocking to the conscience,” Whitney told KABC. “People don’t want to see this happen, especially to someone who is a true victim, who can’t protect themselves, they can’t scream for help.”

Police said the “investigation is on-going and any witnesses with any information about the incident is asked to contact the Garden Grove Police Department.”

Neighbors said they could hear the early-morning commotion from the home, KABC reports.

“I heard yelling and arguing and I thought it was a neighbor having a fight or something like that,” said Louis Dosch, who added that there have been more incidents involving people who are homeless in the area recently, according to the TV station.

Neighbor Joey Harbert said a person came to his door at night recently asking for a ride, according to KABC.

“I’m freaking out like, ‘Get out of here. I don’t know you, get out of here.’ I chase him off the property,” Harbert told KABC.

Police said the homeless suspect lives in Garden Grove.

It’s just kind of nerve-wracking,” Harbert said of the alleged sexual assault, CBS Los Angeles reports. ”Just to think that someone is capable of doing that, or even wanting to do that.”

Neighbors described a “homeless explosion” in the area, including at a neighborhood Walmart where shoppers are scared to go after dark, CBS reported.

“It’s really scary for me because he leaves so early in the morning for work that it’s still dark outside — and there’s people walking by constantly, the homeless people,” mother Megan Harbert told CBS, standing next to Joey Harbert. “I don’t know if they’re going to try to break into my house.”

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Jared Gilmour is a McClatchy national reporter based in San Francisco. He covers everything from health and science to politics and crime. He studied journalism at Northwestern University and grew up in North Dakota.