DES MOINES, Iowa -- McHenry Park on the north side of Des Moines is a place for kids to splash around and parents to take a breather; but police say on Thursday night, a man came to the park with more sinister intentions.
“It's a frightening story and a pretty disgusting story,” said Des Moines Police spokesman Paul Parizek.
Allegedly, 22-year-old Taylor Harlan approached two girls ages six and 12.
“One of them kinda got creeped out right away, and she kind of moved on, and the second one really thought that he might have needed some help and he presented her a message that was written on his phone. It basically was soliciting her to go into the bathroom with him,” said Parizek.
According to the police report, the girl told Harlan that she couldn't read the note, and he then offered to pay the 12-year-old for sex.
“She did the right thing, she backed away right away, she told some adults and those adults started following him as he started to walk away,” said Parizek.
When Harlan realized the parents found out what was going on, he took off down a bike path with witnesses in pursuit.
“You can’t say enough great things about the neighborhood there that stepped up and took the action that they did,” said Parizek.
Police arrived on scene and took Harlan into custody. Still, it’s a stark reminder for parents who were sitting at the park the next day.
"The kids want to grow up easily and go out and have fun, and we tell them every day you have to watch what you're doing, you never know what's going to happen, and I feel like that’s like me every day recording myself saying it," said Crystal Alverz. "[I’m] more panicky, worried, not wanting them to leave by themselves. They're old enough, it's just a disgrace for the community of the kids not being able to do anything anymore."
Harlan is being held in the Polk County Jail on a $20,000 bond.