PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) - A man was taken into custody Friday afternoon after police say he tried to abduct a teenage girl in Portsmouth.
Det. Misty Holley with the Portsmouth Police Department said officers were alerted to the incident after the victim reported it to her School Resource Officer around 9:20 a.m.
Detectives say a man saw the high school girl walking down the street in the 100 block of Beacon Road and approached her, asking her to go with him. When the victim refused, the man grabbed her arm and tried to pull her. She was able to get away and ran to the bus stop at Elliot Avenue and Beacon Road where other students were.
Further investigation identified the suspect as Leslie Thomas Gatling, Jr., 48, of the 100 block of Beacon Road. Holley said Gatling was taken into custody at 2:34 p.m. on outstanding warrants for abduction and assault and battery.
Neighbors describe Gatling as strange, the kind of guy you want to keep your kids away from, but his family has a different perspective. They say he's a man who's been battling mental illness for decades.
Gatling had no comment for WAVY.com on his way to jail.
“When we heard that this happened, we were kind of surprised, but when we heard who the suspect was, we were not surprised,” said a neighbor.
Neighbors tell us Gatling lives inside this home on Beacon Road in Truxtun.
“It breaks my heart, it's awfully chilling,” said a neighbor. “I've known for a while that kids should not be going over there and around the house just because he is a little bit on the weird side."
While Gatling is behind bars, his family says this could be a misunderstanding.
“If no one does not know him personally, that they were actually think he is a monster, but deep within he is dealing with a lot of mental issues that people don't understand,” said Gatling’s brother.
Gatling’s brother asked to remain anonymous, but told WAVY.com Gatling was discharged from the Navy almost 25 years ago after he was diagnosed with Schizophrenia.
“People will look at him like he's normal, but when he's not on his medication, he's absolutely not normal what so ever,” the brother said. “He may do things that are off the wall to normal people.”
The brother said Gatling hears voices, but he doesn’t believe his brother would have harmed the girl. Though, if you ask his neighbors, they aren't sure that's true.
“Hearing about the alleged possible abduction, it confirms a lot of my suspicions,” said a neighbor.
Gatling is being held in the Portsmouth Jail charged with assault and battery and abduction.
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