Arrest In Store Sex Assault

Allen Dwayne Coates, 37, of Irvington, Ky., seen in this undated Corrections Dept. photo, who is suspected of posing as a security guard to sexually assault an 11-year-old girl at a West Virginia Target store was captured Wednesday, July 16, 2003, as he left a lawyer's office in Kentucky, authorities said.
A man wanted in the sexual assault of an 11-year-old girl at a Target store was arrested Wednesday in Kentucky, police said.

Allen Dwayne Coates, 37, was captured without incident in Louisville, Ky., South Charleston Police Chief David Dunlap said. He was being held Wednesday at a jail in Louisville on charges of first-degree sexual assault and kidnapping.

The capture ended a manhunt that focused on a grainy surveillance video of the assault in suburban Charleston on Saturday. On the tape, a man was seen stalking a young girl and then walking quickly down an aisle in another department, leading a girl by her wrist.

The man posed as a security guard and told the girl he saw her steal something, said South Charleston police Sgt. Robert Yeager. He pulled a knife and forced her to the store's garden department, where he assaulted her, Yeager said.

Dunlap said an anonymous tip received by his department Tuesday night led to Coates' arrest. No other suspects were being sought.

Kentucky police are investigating whether Coates was involved in a similar incident Friday at a Wal-Mart in Ashland, Ky., said Capt. Don Petrella of the Ashland police.

In that incident, a 9-year-old girl who had wandered away from her mother was approached by a man who identified himself as a security guard. The man patted the girl down, and she became suspicious and ran to her mother.

"They are being linked together," Dunlap said.

Police had released the surveillance video to the media and had asked NASA to enhance the images in hopes of identifying the suspect.

"If it were not for the broadcast, this case may have never been solved," Dunlap said.

The incidents are prompting discussion of when pre-teenagers should be allowed to wander through a department store alone.

"I've got a 12-year-old stepson. I've never thought twice about doing my shopping while he did his," South Charleston police Sgt. Robert Yeager said. "But now, who knows?"

Stores do their best to keep customers safe, but security systems are mainly designed to protect against employee theft and shoplifting, said Mark Doyle, vice president of security systems consultant Jack Hayes International, whose clients include Peebles and Marshall's.

Doyle said another problem with expecting surveillance cameras to help keep kids safe is that since the images are not always clear, guards may not realize a crime is taking place — even if they see it happening.

"I could have been in there and seen that happen and said, 'Man! That dad's not very nice. That poor kid,"' Doyle said.