Homeless man arrested after allegedly grabbing child at DeFuniak Springs preschool

Sierra Rains
Northwest Florida Daily News
DeFuniak Springs police responded to First Baptist Church Preschool ON Friday morning after a homeless man allegedly grabbed a young girl being dropped off.

DEFUNIAK SPRINGS — A 61-year-old homeless man was arrested Friday morning after he allegedly grabbed a young girl being dropped off at First Baptist Church Preschool. 

Police responded to the preschool about 9 a.m. in reference to complaints of a homeless man “harassing” parents while they were dropping off their toddlers, according to a news release from the DeFuniak Springs Police Department

In case you missed it:Woman arrested after allegedly kidnapping 6-year-old from Fort Walton Beach bus stop

In other news:OCSO investigating after woman shot in leg at Red Rose nightclub in Okaloosa

A 16-year-old girl told officers she was dropping off her niece when a man, later identified as Jeffrey Thomas Caldwell, allegedly approached her and asked her for money.

According to police, Caldwell opened the back door to her vehicle while she was grabbing money for him and pulled her niece out. 

“She pleaded with the suspect to release her niece, which he eventually complied with,” the release said. 

The victims told the preschool staff what had happened and the staff immediately called 911. Officers were advised Caldwell had left the area on foot, and he was found a short time later and detained. 

According to police, Caldwell appeared to be intoxicated and admitted to obtaining money from the victim, but denied doing anything wrong. Caldwell was arrested based on the victim’s statement and other witnesses' statements gathered by police. 

He was booked in the Walton County jail on charges of burglary to an occupied conveyance while committing a battery and kidnapping. Caldwell was awaiting his first appearance in court Friday.