The mother of an 8-year-old child approached by a transient later arrested for attempted kidnapping wanted to make sure those who came to their aid Saturday were recognized.
The suspect in the case, 57-year-old Ralph Grohs, is behind bars today pending filing of formal charges. The child’s mother has something to say:
Yesterday started as most Lamorinda Saturdays do: cheering for two LMYA soccer games and then a trip to our library to check out some fresh chapter books for the week. I didn’t sense that anything was wrong when we left the library. Even when my daughter squeezed my hand hard and said, “Mom, please can we go to the car?”, I didn’t really understand what her urgency was. We weren’t in a hurry or running late, but my 8 year old daughter had the sense that something was wrong. She was the one that picked up danger. Not me. Without going into too much detail, the situation quickly escalated when he started chasing us chanting audibly “She was for me.” My instinct guided me to grab my daughter and run away quickly. We fled to Sew Now, where the staff was quick to help me lock the door and call 911.
The point of this letter is not about the awfulness of yesterday. It is about the amazingness of yesterday. It is about a community coming together like I knew it would. This is the important part.
It’s about Lafayette Police Officer Berch Parker who is also a Lafayette dad, who surely missed his own children’s soccer games to make sure my daughter was going to be okay. He was gentle and kind as he coaxed her from hiding under fabric in the storage room at Sew Now. He made sure she got home safe by folllowing us in his police car and stayed with us while she hid in bed crying. Only then did his real work begin.
It’s about a group of other 8 year old girls that were taking a sewing class when something terrifying happened and through tears, they were brave and came over to support their friend. Their parents should be proud of how their children rallied to support their friend in need, despite their own confusion and fear.
It’s about our local school district who in less than 20 minutes, sprung into action on a Saturday without hesitation or delay. We had a call from the district head psychologist, the school principal and our child’s teacher who were all ready to come over, talk to her when ready, guide us as parents, and make sure our 8 year old daughter feels well supported from her school community. Not just that day, but in the weeks and months to come.
It’s about a school district that is proactive and well before this incident, had the foresight to partner with the Contra Costa Child Abuse Prevention Council to arrange Child Safety Awareness classes for all 1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th graders in all Lafayette, Moraga, and Orinda public schools.
It’s about a well-known local photographer who offered to take “glamour shots” of our daughter, to keep her occupied after an incredibly stressful morning.
It’s about a community and police force that takes crimes like these very seriously. They brought out helicopters, the Contra Costa County J SWAT team, and the Lafayette Police department. Officer Parker was in touch with us throughout the day and by late afternoon, all their hard work and diligence had paid off, as I knew it would. I had full confidence in the professionals and the community that banded together to search for the perpetrator.
On a different note, and please keep in mind that this is my opinion, I start the day with mixed feelings about this man. He is in jail today thanks to the quick and thorough response of our local law enforcement, but I hope he gets the help he needs through alcohol treatment and psychiatric services.
I end by saying, I am so proud of our community. It has been a few years now of constant budget cuts to services like police, fire departments and schools. In times like this you may ask, what can I do? Please support our local Lafayette Police department, our amazing Lafayette schools and their staff, our Lafayette Partners in Education, our beautiful library and the Contra Costa County Child Abuse Prevention Council. It’s what makes our little town of Lafayette wonderful and together forms an incredible network that truly takes care of its own.
“A Lafayette Mom” – (name withheld for security reasons).