By Angela Greenwood

AUBURN (CBS13) — The man accused of trying to kidnap a 3-year-old girl from an Auburn park over the weekend made his first court appearance Tuesday.

Yonel Hernandez-Velasco, 26, pleaded not guilty to felony kidnapping and assault with a deadly weapon.

His attack is now sounding alarms off in the Auburn community and sparking a new push to fight back, as a group of women band together to protect their families through self-defense training.

“Why would we wait? That’s like waiting to put your seatbelt on,” said Lori Osmond, Director with Damsel in Defense.

They’re not pulling any punches, but they’re packing them. More than a dozen Auburn women are arming themselves with self-defense tools and training, ready to fight for their children and their city.

“My immediate thought was what would I do if I was with my grandchildren?” said Auburn resident Besty Bender.

The community has been shaken since the attempted kidnapping of a three-year-old girl at Regional Park on Saturday. A day after the incident, Bender- with the North Auburn Neighborhood Watch group- organized the self-defense class.

“I want to make sure I am as prepared as I can be.”

Lori Osmond with Damsel in Defense ran the training course, teaching women to be aware of their surroundings, how to talk to their children about dangerous situations and how to fight for their lives.

“Teach them how to be aggressive. A lot of women do not know how to be aggressive,” said Osmond.

Most ladies left with new protection. Cherra Estes bought a stun gun and says she attended the training to protect her baby.

“Hopefully I’ll never have to use it,” said Estes.

LaWonna Taylor also attended the training and said, “We have to take responsibility for our life. We have to be prepared.”

A judge revoked the bail for Hernandez-Velasco claiming he is a threat to the community. He is due back in court April 17.


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