ABILENE, Texas - Strangers asking for money – it happens all the time, but when does it break the law?
Kayla Christianson said a man asked her for money inside a downtown Abilene bank Monday. She told him she didn't have any and walked into an elevator. When she turned around, she realized he was in there too.
“I went to go push a button to try to get off on another floor, and that's when he slapped my hand down, and at that point he said, 'Show me your purse and show me that you have no money,'” Christianson said.
She said he also blocked her from getting off the elevator and didn't back off until other people got on.
“I just decided to stay calm and memorize everything about him because once I got out of this elevator -- I kept telling myself I'm going to get out of this elevator -- I needed to tell police what he looked like," Christianson said.
She did tell police. They issued an alert Tuesday and released the suspect's mugshot. Jean Ndatabaye was arrested that same afternoon.
“If you believe someone is aggressively panhandling, you need to call us every time,” said Chief Stan Standridge with the Abilene Police Department.
Standridge said police already know about the panhandlers on street corners asking for cash, and many times that's legal. So when should you report it?
“A person commits an offense when they assault you, they use obscene language, they block your path, they hit your vehicle, they stick their hand inside your vehicle,” Standridge said.
Christianson was relieved to hear Ndatabaye was arrested. She said after she posted about the incident on social media, dozens of others commented about experiences with him, too.
“I think really the community came together and proved that if we communicate with each other, we can make sure that these violent instances don't occur,” Christianson said.
Christianson said she is working on a system to improve communication among downtown businesses.
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