A Florida family of four went to grab a burger and a toy at a Jacksonville McDonald’s. During the course of the meal, the two boys, who were there with their parents, employed the buddy system to use the restroom. Without saying a word, the older son returned to the table and the younger did not, so the father went to investigate and walked in on a living nightmare.
It was just after 5 p.m. Thursday when the family sat down to eat, and the brothers, ages 6 and 7, got up to use the bathroom. A brief time later, the 7-year-old came back alone, setting off concern for the father. The dad, who was not named, walked inside the restroom to look for his younger boy and saw a black man emerge from a stall and leave the bathroom. Behind that same stall door, which the stranger had just come out of, he found his little boy pulling up his pants, The Florida Times-Union reported.
Making the connection that the man had allegedly just sexually assaulted his son, the dad took off out of the bathroom, chasing the pervert down the street. The scrappy suspect, later identified as 33-year-old Keith Andre Sykes, who is homeless, managed to get away. He hid in a dumpster, where he belongs, as the parents called police after the chase ensued. Cops caught up with the alleged pedophile and took him into custody on a charge of capital sexual battery. But the incident raises a lot of question.
“It’s hard to tell exactly what happened in that stall, but based on forensics evidence and medical exams, it’s clear that some kind of sex crime happened,” Chief Tom Hackney said at a news conference Friday about the encounter that’s still under investigation.
Either this was the first time the parents let their children go to the restroom alone and learned the hard way why you shouldn’t, or they are in the regular practice of doing this. The buddy system for two kids this young is obviously ineffective or at least should come with training your kids to make a lot of noise if someone confronts them.
But the best possible thing to do is always go with your young child to a public bathroom. As the mother of a 9-year-old son, I never let him use a bathroom alone when it’s just the two of us out. I take him in the women’s restroom, let him use a stall on his own, and wait for him by the sink. This frequently comes with dirty looks from other women, but his safety is more important to me than their discomfort, and sending him into a closed room, where any disgusting stranger could be waiting for his next victim, is not a chance I’m willing to take with my kid.
Public restrooms are a pedophile’s paradise because they can sit in a stall and take their pick from a revolving door of kids. Nobody will know something sick has happened until it’s too late. The older brother should have made some noise and mentioned something to his parents, and Sykes is lucky this dad didn’t find him first.