Charges filed in attempted kidnapping at Gamble Park


An illegal immigrant living in Walker County for the past four years has been charged with an attempted kidnapping Wednesday afternoon at Gamble Park in Jasper.

Bernardo Castro-Gabriel, 22, of Guatemala, has been charged with second-degree attempted kidnapping, Jasper Police Chief J.C. Poe said during a Friday morning press conference.

A separate charge of trying to entice a child was also filed against Castro-Gabriel because prior to the incident at Gamble Park, he tried to lure two teenage girls — both 14 — into his vehicle at a bus stop near Alma Road between Jasper and Cordova.

Investigators with the Walker County Sheriff's Office are working with Jasper police on the case.  

A bond hearing was held Friday afternoon, where Circuit Judge Henry Allred set Castro-Gabriel's bond at $1 million cash — $500,000 for each of the two counts he's facing.

Castro-Gabriel, who also goes by the name Omar Sanchez, is not expected to be able to post bond. There were numerous restrictions added should he be able to do so, including having no contact with his victims, being ordered under house arrest and wearing an ankle bracelet for monitoring. He's being held in the Walker County Jail. He was deemed a danger to society and a flight risk.

Castro-Gabriel, who does not speak English, was aided by an interpreter during Friday's bond hearing. He was represented by Sam Bentley of the Walker County Public Defender's Office.

The incident happened at 4:15 p.m. Wednesday at Gamble Park, located adjacent to Bevill State Community College's Jasper campus.

The victim, whose name and age has not been released, suffered minor injuries and was taken to Walker Baptist Medical Center to be treated. She was later released.

Poe said the woman was jogging on the track at the park when Castro-Gabriel grabbed her and pulled her to the ground by her ponytail. He dragged her to his vehicle parked nearby.

"He was dragging her to the car, opened the door and she continued to kick him and was able to break free and ran away," Poe said. 

The woman ran to another person at the park, who called 911. Jasper police were on the scene within minutes, Poe said, and got a description of the suspect and the small, blue car he was driving.

"Our patrol units quickly saturated the area," Poe said. 

A short time later, the vehicle was spotted in downtown Jasper, stopped by a Jasper patrol officer and Castro-Gabriel was taken into custody.

Castro-Gabriel had been living in Walker County for the past four years. Poe said he has been living in the U.S. illegally for the past five years. 

Poe said federal immigration officials are in Jasper and are working with Jasper police on the case.

"We've been meeting with them and have an immigration detainer at this time," he said, adding that immigration officials will, at some point, "take control of him and go through their process."

Poe said he, Jasper Mayor David O'Mary and public works director Joe Matthews met at Gamble Park Thursday morning to assess any things needed to make the park safer.

 "We made some suggestions to the mayor, and he's fully in agreement with those recommendations," Poe said.

Assessments will also be done at other city parks, he said. 

"I know that it's hard to make any area completely safe," Poe said, "but the city is determined to make these parks as safe as possible."

That includes increased police patrols at city parks.

"We're going to make this a priority," he said. 

Poe said he's working to offer self-defense classes for women, as well as offering more classes for women who carry handguns. "We've been doing that," he said, "but we need to do more of them."

Poe said anyone — particularly women — utilizing city parks should be cautious. He suggested walking or running in groups, always having a cell phone with you and carrying mace, pepper spray or a taser.

"We're very fortunate that this lady was able to break free from her attacker, and I'm sure that if she hadn't been able to, we would have had a tragedy on our hands today," he said.