AUSTIN (KXAN) — New details reveal witnesses helped save an 8-year-old girl from a man who police say was trying to sexually assault her in a bathroom at the North Village Branch Library.
Austin police were originally called to the public library on Steck Avenue just before 1:30 p.m. Saturday. When officers arrived, several library patrons were guarding the women’s bathroom to make sure the suspect, 30-year-old Hubert Justin Powell, didn’t leave before they arrived.
The victim told police she was walking out of the bathroom stall when a man came in and locked her in the stall. The girl said she was able to scream once before the suspect covered her mouth with both hands.
A witness told police when she heard screaming coming from the bathroom, she ran in to see what was going on and found the first stall door locked. The witness said when she peered through the crack in the stall, she saw a man sitting his back against the stall door and his hand was over the mouth of a young girl, according to an arrest affidavit.
The witness said the victim was trying to get away and “screamed repeatedly” for the man to let go of her but he wouldn’t. The witness said she tried to grab the child but struggled with the suspect for a period of time before she was able to pull the girl out. Police say the suspect managed to pull off the child’s shorts and underwear during the struggle.
Police say Powell is also connected to another case at the library about 30 minutes before the bathroom incident. An 11-year-old told her father while at the library a man grabbed her, picked her up, and tried to potentially kidnap her. When she yelled “help,” the man let her go. The girl’s father said they were about to leave after hearing about what happened when the suspect approached them again and “grabbed the victim by the wrist and said the girl was coming with him,” continued in the affidavit. The father told the suspect “don’t touch her” and Powell let her go. Police say the father called 911 to report what happened around 1:40 p.m., which was after the bathroom case.
Powell was immediately arrested at the library. Once detectives interviewed him, he said he wasn’t quick enough to take her clothes off and that he “didn’t feel bad about today.”
Police say it was a great job by everyone involved in keeping the girls safe from the suspect.
“Kudos to the citizens and also library employees, anybody there that was involved and also to the victims,” said Officer Destiny Winston, with the Austin Police Department. “They yelled and screamed loud enough so that bystanders were able to help them and assist them. They were able to keep the suspect detained.”
Powell is currently in the Travis County Jail charged with aggravated kidnapping and unlawful restraint. According to court records, Powell was recently arrested this year for indecent exposure where he pled no contest and was sentenced to 90 days in prison. DPS records indicate he was released from prison on Sept. 14. He also has a criminal history that involves criminal trespassing, burglary and credit card abuse.
Kanya Lyons, a spokesperson for the Austin Public Library, released the following statement in response to the weekend’s incidents:
We take the safety and security of our customers very seriously at the Austin Public Library. Our staff is well-trained in crisis prevention and safety measures. There were four staff members working at the North Village Branch when the incident occurred on Saturday.
Both staff and customers at the North Village Branch should be commended for their quick reaction to the situation. The victim was removed from harm immediately and, a few minutes later, the police arrived. The perpetrator was arrested by the Austin Police Department and a criminal investigation is underway.
“Unfortunately, these type of things happen and these predators are out there,” added Officer Winston. “So, you have to be aware constantly of your surroundings. It can happen anywhere, anytime, to anyone.”