A man on Monday tried to drag a woman into a wooded area in the middle of the day in East Austin and rape her before several good Samaritans pulled him away and held him down until the police came, Austin police said.
Javier Cervantes, 35, was jailed Monday on a charge of aggravated kidnapping. According to police, he approached the woman as she walked down Airport Boulevard near 12th Street, asking for her phone number.
The woman felt uneasy about the man, so she grabbed pepper spray from her bag and kept walking, according to Cervantes’ arrest affidavit. The man continued to ask for her phone number, and he eventually was about a foot away from her.
“As she continued walking, she turned her head and asked him to please stay away from her (and) give her some space, but he continued walking really close to her,” the document said.
The woman threatened Cervantes with calling the police. When she did, he told her that he would have sex with her before police got to her and grabbed her from behind.
“The victim stated she tried to scream at first but no sounds came out of her mouth. She stated that she was strangled by the suspect’s arms and lost the ability to breathe correctly,” the affidavit said.
The document said Cervantes was pulling the woman to a nearby tree line as he strangled her. He pushed her onto the ground and continued to drag her toward the trees when the woman was able to scream.
The incident happened between 4 and 5 p.m., said Alex Cantu, store manager of National Pawn and Jewelry on Airport Boulevard. Cantu was talking to some customers when he heard the woman scream and saw her from the window of his shop.
“Hey, let her go, dude,” Cantu recalled telling Cervantes as he walked up to him. Cantu said he saw that the woman, a regular customer of his, was crying, and that’s when Cantu grabbed Cervantes by his sweater.
Cantu said he held Cervantes on the ground while other witnesses called 911. While Cantu was holding him down, two other men who were passing by helped to hold down Cervantes, and police arrived in about 10 minutes.
A crew had recently cleared much of the brush from the wooded area near his store, Cantu said. It’s scary to think, he said, that if it hadn’t been for that, he and other witnesses might not have seen what was going on.
Cervantes told police he was trying to rape the woman, the affidavit says. After hearing that, officers immediately read him his rights and took him into custody.
Cervantes was booked into the Travis County Jail on Monday night, and he was still there Wednesday, records show. His bail was set at $75,000.
Cantu said he didn’t think the woman was badly injured. He saw her walking to work the next day.
“I just did what I had to do,” Cantu said. “I didn’t think nothing of it.”
More than a dozen reported attacks on women in Austin over the past couple of years are still unsolved. In all cases, a man — who the victims didn’t know — attacked a woman out in the open and either sexually assaulted her or tried to, police have said.
The Austin Police Department uploaded a public service video on YouTube in June, which said as many as 15 attacks targeted women in North, East and Southeast Austin. The video urged women to be vigilant and aware of their surroundings.
Police said the attacker has struck as women exercised in a greenbelt, carried groceries or pushed a baby stroller. Most of the attacks have occurred on weekends.