L.A. Commuters Halt Kidnapping Attempt

They helped the victim get away by wrestling the suspect to the ground.

March 18, 2011 — -- Los Angeles County authorities want to speak to the commuters who stopped a kidnapping attempt at a metro station by tackling the alleged suspect.

"Bystanders got involved. We thank them," Steve Whitmore, a sheriff's department spokeman, told ABC News. "We've asked people to contact us."

The incident occurred around 2 p.m. Thursday, at an MTA Avalon station in South Los Angeles after a man allegedly tried to grab a teenage girl off a train.

"He had grabbed her in a bear hug," Whitmore told ABC affiliate KABC-TV, "and he was dragging her off. This group of passengers, could be up to 10 people, actually prevented this from occurring. They tackled him and they brought him to the ground."

The girl broke free and ran away and the alleged attacker got on a passing train. He was arrested by deputies at another station. The suspect, James Alfred Burnett, 46, is in jail and was booked on suspicion of attempted kidnapping.

Whitmore told ABC News that Burnett is a registered sex offender with a criminal history. Police are now investigating whether he's been involved in other similar incidents.

A 14-year-old girl was sexually assaulted and nearly raped in February at a railway platform near the Avalon station, Whitmore said.

He said the intended victim had contacted police Thursday night after seeing news reports. He said that she was not a minor, as previously reported, and that she had asked that her identity be withheld.

"She called us," he said. "We wanted to let her know it's OK. We talked to her and she's cooperating fully in the ongoing investigation."

"It is unusual," Whitmore said of Thursday's kidnapping attempt. "Our railways are pretty safe."

The Associated Press and ABC News affiliate KABC-TV contributed to this story.