Churchgoers stop man trying to take SUV with children inside, JSO says

Incident happened Sunday afternoon outside Arlington church

Churchgoers stop man trying to take SUV with children inside, JSO says
Churchgoers stop man trying to take SUV with children inside, JSO says

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Churchgoers on Sunday stopped a man trying to take a vehicle with three children inside, according to an arrest report from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.

Rigoberto Soto Jr., 19, of Jacksonville was booked Sunday night into the Duval County jail on one count of vehicle theft, three counts of kidnapping and one count of resisting police, jail records show.

According to Soto’s arrest report, a woman was sitting in an SUV with three children in the back seat on Sunday afternoon at Destination Church on Arlington Road North. The report said a man with her was talking to people in the parking lot, standing outside the SUV, which was running with the air conditioning on, when Soto jumped in the driver’s side and told everyone to get down. The woman jumped out of the car. A witness opened a rear door, and one of the kids jumped out. The report shows the man climbed into the vehicle and grabbed Soto as the car started moving. The man managed to put the vehicle into park. Several other churchgoers then came to his assistance, and they wrestled Soto to the ground to hold him for police, according to the report.

“I was actually talking with my dad outside the front door when it all happened,” recalled Daniel Opalchuk, who is an usher for Living Stream Church, which holds service at Destination Church. “You could hear the tires squeaking in the parking lot.”

A photo shows the suspect restrained by three people, including Opalchuk.

Soto had been seen in the parking lot, looking into cars, according to the report.

“The two guys already there were pulling him out, and I came and I helped out and put him to the ground,” Opalchuk recounted. “I don’t think I did anything anybody else wouldn’t have done. I think anybody in my shoes would have done the same thing. It felt amazing. Who knows what could have happened to those kids.”

The children’s father, who did not want to be identified, sent News4Jax this text: “I was putting my kids in a car, the guy jumps in the driver seat. I jumped in through the back passenger door, we wrestled. I was trying to put the car in park, while he was driving off. As soon as I could, I put the car in park, the ushers came and opened the driver side door and started pulling him out.”

According to police, there’s no relationship between the suspect and the family.

Police also noted in the report that as they tried to search Soto and place him in a patrol car, he actively resisted. According to the report, Soto said he needed to get to Miami.

As of Thursday afternoon, Soto remained in jail on $312,500 bond, according to jail records.

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