A homeless man arrested for allegedly trying to kidnap two preteen sisters in Cambridge, Massachusetts appeared in court Tuesday.
Lionel Brathwaite, 52, was held without bail at his arraignment in Cambridge District Court. He was charged with two counts of kidnapping.
Police said Brathwaite was arrested Saturday near Central Square after he allegedly tried to lure the children into an alley on Feb. 13.
The girls were walking home at about 5:15 p.m. when Brathwaite allegedly approached them to ask for directions. He then grabbed one of the sisters by her arm and wandered around the neighborhood with them, according to police. The children told investigators the suspect smelled of alcohol at the time.
"He told them, 'I don’t want to hurt you. If you yell I'll shoot you,'" said prosecutor April O'Brien. "He then grabbed them, stated, 'grab on to me hard, do what I say. I don't want to hurt you. I'm going to hurt you if you come with me.'"
Surveillance footage captured the trio walking down William Street, where Brathwaite allegedly tried to get the children to go into an alley with him. That's when the girls eventually ran away towards their home, police said.
Defense attorney Sean Delaney says his client denies the allegations.
"I do want to put on record my client adamantly denies allegations against him," said Delaney.
The incident has left neighbors feeling unsettled.
"We as women, we sort of have a different awareness around us at night than a guy would," Cambridge resident Eva Harris said. "But, that is the reality."
"You know, women, in particular, should be more careful. Especially when they're alone," Cambridge pedestrian Sonia Singh said.
According to the Sex Offender Registry, Brathwaite is a level 3 sex offender. He was convicted on one count of aggravated rape on April 18, 2003.
This case marked the second time that investigators say a stranger followed a girl in the area in February alone.
In an unrelated case from two weeks earlier, police say another stranger followed a 17-year-old girl home from Central Square on Feb. 3.
Brathwaite is due back in court March 1.