A man suspected of harassing and touching two young girls on public buses in Santa Ana could have more victims, authorities say, and the Orange County District Attorney’s office is asking for the public’s help in locating other girls the suspect may have harassed.
Jose Antonio Hernandez, 45, of Santa Ana, is charged with two misdemeanor counts of child annoyance and two misdemeanor counts of battery for allegedly grabbing two female middle school students while standing behind them on buses on April 19 and 20. He is being held on $10,000 bail and faces up three years in jail if convicted.
Information gathered during the investigation leads prosecutors to believe these might not be isolated incidents, said Farrah Emami, a spokeswoman for the D.A.’s office.
“Based on the behavior of the defendant and the fact that the two victims were on the same bus route and coming from the same school … we’re concerned that there could potentially be more victims,” she said.
Both incidents occurred on public buses traveling near First Street and Grand Avenue in Santa Ana, Emami said.
During the first incident on April 19, Hernandez is accused of approaching an 11-year-old girl on the bus while she was traveling home from school. He allegedly stood behind the girl, grabbed her shoulders and pulled her back so her body was nearly touching his. The girl pulled away and moved to another part of the bus.
The next day, Hernandez allegedly stood close behind a 13-year-old girl and put his hands around her waist, holding her for several seconds until she elbowed him, moved away and got off the bus.
The two girls, who attend the same school but do not know each other, independently told their assistant principal about the incidents. They said the man was wearing a red baseball cap and red backpack. The assistant principal contacted the police.
“These two girls were very brave to come forward and report what had happened to them,” Emami said. “We understand that it can be embarrassing for a child, but we would encourage them to tell somebody … because they don’t deserve to be touched by a stranger inappropriately.”
On May 4, deputies from the Orange County Sheriff’s Department arrested Hernandez after finding him on a bus traveling the same route at the same time as the incidents occurred.
Hernandez is scheduled for a pre-trial hearing on Friday.