TAMPA, Fla. (WTSP) -- A Hillsborough County school bus driver is behind bars
after police say he grabbed a 12-year-old boy who was walking home, forced him
down an embankment and behind a clump of trees near the Hillsborough River, then
sexually assaulted him.
Detectives are not sure if 29-year-old Dacquiri Crawford victimized other
children, according to the Tampa Police Department.
On Thursday, the boy was walking to Tampa Presbyterian Village to play with
friends, as he often did. That's the first time that police say he ever saw
Crawford, parked under the Boulevard Bridge with a group of men. It was as the
12-year-old walked home around 9 p.m., police say, that he saw the suspect
again. This time, he was standing alone.
"He forced himself upon the boy, performing two sexual acts," says Tampa
Police spokeswoman Laura McElroy. "When the child said, 'It hurts, it hurts,' he
stopped the act and then he let the child go."
The boy's mother called police, sparking a massive search by air and ground
that included K-9 units and more than three dozen undercover officers.
A tip in the case may have come from the suspect himself. Police say he told
the boy, "If you liked that, I will be back."
"It appears he was trying to develop some sort of rapport with this child and
get the child to come back and meet him," McElroy says. "Based on that, we
thought there was a strong possibility the suspect would return to that
Detectives say Crawford returned to that same area on Friday night, just as
the Tampa Police Department was about to put out a public plea for help leading
to the arrest of a suspect.
"He admitted victimizing this 12-year-old boy. He even turned over the
clothing that he was wearing during the offense," says McElroy. "He made a
comment that he thought the boy was a little older, 13 or 14, and that made it
okay in his mind."
Crawford started working as a substitute bus driver for Hillsborough County
Public Schools in 2005, and was promoted to a permanent driver in 2006.
Officials couldn't say what bus route he drove. He has no prior charges in
Hillsborough County, and a school district background check done prior to hiring
Crawford turned up nothing.
"We've never had any problems with him whatsoever," says Hillsborough County
Public Schools spokesman Steve Hegarty. "We will send a letter to the jail to
inform him that given the charges, this very well could affect his future
employment if it's true."
It will be the school board's decision to suspend Crawford without pay or
Crawford is being held without bond.
McElroy says the boy is traumatized by what happened, but has been very
helpful to detectives.
"He had the presence of mind to run home and tell his mother immediately what
happened," she says. "He's been very brave."
If you have any information regarding other victims, you're urged to call the
Tampa Police Department at 813-231-6130 or CrimeStoppers at 1-800-873-TIPS.
First Coast News