Mark Hayward's City Matters: A close call for mother, daughter
LIFE HAS its close calls, the kind of heart-pumping moments when you realize that only an angel's breath kept you from screwing up big time, getting hurt or even getting killed.
Janet DeJesus and Shanice Perez know about close calls.
Last month, the mother and daughter were unnerved when a dark, bald man spent the entire day sitting in an SUV in the backstreet parking lot of their employer, Van Otis Chocolate. A few days later, they were further scared when the same car was parked in front of their Blodgett Street home. Same driver, once again inside the car for hours."It was kind of creepy; he slept in his car," said Perez, who is 18.
This month, they picked up the newspaper and realized that had been their close call. The man in the car had just been arrested for allegedly forcing himself on a woman. It was only the latest in the history of Osahenrumwen Ojo, who is 35.
• Manchester police arrested Ojo on July 11 and accused him of holding a knife to a woman. The two had recently met, exchanged telephone numbers and arranged a rendezvous. He suggested they have some fun and pulled out a utility knife. Her well-aimed pepper spray put an end to his fun-filled evening, according to reports.
• When arrested, Ojo was out on bail after he allegedly grabbed the shirt of a 34-year-old woman on June 23 as she walked down Sagamore Street, police said. Ojo had allegedly scuffled with her cousin, after the cousin claimed Ojo blew kisses at her.
Ojo was accused of pulling her toward him and threatening her, but prosecutors dropped those charges Wednesday. I didn't get a call back from the prosecutor to explain why.
• On July 7, a woman reported she was sexually assaulted on Sagamore Street by a man matching Ojo's description — black male, shaved head — and driving a blue Pontiac SUV, the make and color of his vehicle.
•In 2010, Ojo was arrested on a felony kidnapping charge. He was accused of jumping in the rear seat of a 24-year-old woman's car, showing what turned out to be a toy gun and demanding she drive to a secluded area.
She ran off and was helped by passers-by. However, she kept running. She now lives in Germany, and prosecutors dropped charges against Ojo because she won't return to testify against him.
Ojo is a Nigerian native who is apparently in this country legally, according to previous news reports. He seems to know the legal system. He sued the city for false arrest in the 2010 case, a suit the state Supreme Court has ruled can move forward.
And he has sued Hillsborough County, alleging mistreatment when he was held at the Valley Street jail for 17 months, awaiting trial for the 2010 case.
His court cases feature lengthy, handwritten motions. With proper grammar and spelling, he writes in near legalese and quotes Supreme Court rulings in his favor.
The last job he held was only for two months, according to court papers, and he said he is homeless. But someone sprung for a $3,000 bail bond after his June 23 arrest.
"It is scary knowing there was a person following me," said DeJesus, who is 36. "To find out two weeks later about him, I thought 'Wow, it could have been me."'
So what to do when a potential creep is in your neighborhood? Do you take precautions. Arm yourself? Trust police are on top of things?
In this case, all of the above.
It's clear that police are concerned about Ojo. The July 11 arrest took place minutes after Ojo allegedly forced himself on the woman. Based on Ojo's recent history, police were staking him out for two hours and parked just down the street from where the alleged attack took place.
His all-day presence at the secluded Van Otis parking lot on June 1 unnerved the company enough that they called police, who ticketed him for loitering and prowling. (In one of his court filings, Ojo claimed police put a gun to his head when they approached his car, and they gave him a hard time when two condoms fell out of his pocket.)
Of course, DeJesus and Perez would have liked to have seen the police do more. Why not arrest Ojo, they said, when they called police to complain he was parked in front of their apartment?
"Maybe that (the alleged July 11 attack) would have never happened if they did something. That could have been me," Perez said.
Most people know police can't go up and arrest someone because they're acting creepy. But it's easy for me to pontificate about police restraint and probable cause when no one's parked outside my house for hours.
So what did DeJesus and Perez do?
For one thing, they have a lot of friends. At Van Otis, a co-worker drove the two home the night Ojo was parked outside (they usually walk). An office manager purchased them canisters of pepper spray, DeJesus said.And in the end, it pays to have good neighbors.
"I was alerting my neighbors. I don't think he ever had a chance," DeJesus said. "I had good neighbors, they were actually watching out for me."
Mark Hayward's City Matters runs Thursdays in the New Hampshire Union Leader and UnionLeader.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.