Officials from an Encinitas pre-school said authorities incorrectly identified a homeless man as trying to lure a girl from the school last week.
Deputies from the San Diego County Sheriff's Department's North Coastal Station arrested 34-year-old Nemo P. Bailey on suspicion of annoying a child on March 17, but officials from the school, Oasis Community School, on March 20 said the man was actually attempting to take some shoes from outside the school's gate.
"The transient did not try to lure a child from the premises," said Liberty Winn, the school's director, in a statement. "He stole a pair of flip-flops from outside our gate, and asked my 11-year-old daughter and her friend if the shoes were theirs, before he strolled casually away with the shoes. He in no way tried to lure the children, he did intend to take the shoes."
She said she was initially alarmed "and got a flurry of information from the girls, who were shaken up." She said she assumed he was trying to lure them out and called 911 with that suspicion.
"When detectives interviewed the girls, they (and I) learned that that was not the case," Winn said. "The investigation shows that no attempt to lure the children was made, and his further activity led the Sheriffs to believe he was not a predator. He made a huge mistake speaking to the children, and will be spending time in jail until a judge decides whether to charge him with the misdemeanor of annoying a child."
Winn said Bailey appeared drunk and was singing, smiling and waving at cars "and taking a very leisurely pace down the street toward the beach."
The detective on the case could not be immediately reached for comment.
According to a news release from the Sheriff's Department on March 17, deputies from the San Diego County Sheriff's Department's North Coastal Station received a call at about 10:40 a.m. regarding a suspicious man outside the front gate of the Oasis Community School on La Mesa Avenue.
The caller, possibly an employee of the school, told deputies that the man, later identified as Bailey, had attempted to lure the girl, who was there for a school program, outside the school's gated area but was unsuccessful, said Sgt. Scott Bligh.
“He engaged the [11-year-old girl] in some sort of conversation and it appeared he was trying to lure her out toward the sidewalk area,” Bligh said.
A previous report incorrectly identified the girl as 3 years old, due to an error in the original news release.
Bailey never made physical contact with the girl, who was unharmed, Bligh said.
The suspect left the area on foot, and deputies quickly arrived, set up a perimeter and began a search.
He was located a short distance away at the volleyball courts near Moonlight Beach and was positively identified and arrested for annoying a child.
“Apparently one of the school employees was in a Sheriff’s deputy’s car when they identified the suspect at the volleyball court,” Bligh said.
Bailey told deputies he is homeless, came by train from Milwaukee, Wisconsin and had only been in the San Diego area for about three days, Bligh said.
Bailey was booked at the Vista Detention Facility without incident. The case is now being handled by the San Diego County District Attorney, which will decide if charges will be pressed against Bailey, according to the Sheriff's Department.
*Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with new information.