Sex crime reported at Gilbert preserve - East Valley Tribune: News

Sex crime reported at Gilbert preserve

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Posted: Wednesday, June 15, 2005 10:25 am | Updated: 8:59 am, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Gilbert police are investigating accusations that a Southwest Ambulance manager sexually abused a 16-yearold boy at the Riparian Preserve.

The boy was jogging about 4 p.m. June 6 and stopped to use the restroom when he noticed a man "looking at him strangely," according to police

reports. While he was in the stall, the man entered the bathroom and peered in at the boy through the door crack. When the boy came out, the man grabbed his shoulder, pulled down his pants and sexually abused him.

Robert Thooft, a Southwest Ambulance employee for 18 months, was arrested about 5:30 p.m. that day. He posted bail June 9.

Police are awaiting DNA test results. No charges have been filed.

"The allegations are false and I plan on fighting it to the end," Thooft said.

Thooft, an administrative manager and "exce llent employee," was immediately placed on leave, said Southwest Ambulance spokesman Josh Weiss.

Thooft said he was at the preserve for a few minutes.

"I seriously don’t remember touching him," he told police. He also stated, "We got close a couple of times."

After the incident, the teenager ran to a nearby library and asked a security guard to call police.

Officers did not arrive for more than an hour. "I’m ashamed to admit that it took so long," said Gilbert Lt. Joe Ruet. "We are taking steps to address this."

The call was held for a lengthy amount of time after a fairly new dispatcher classified it at a lower priority. "We are not happy with that command staff," Ruet said.

When police arrived, Thooft was getting into his Southwest Ambulance company vehicle, which was not an ambulance. He wore clothes displaying the company’s logo, which the victim identified, police said.

The park’s ranger, Scott Cleaves, said he saw Thooft loitering around the picnic area prior to the incident and approached him. His friendly nature and his Southwest Ambulance attire and marked vehicle convinced him the man wasn’t a threat, Cleaves said.

"I asked him a number of questions and he passed my test," Cleaves said.

This is the first sexual abuse report at the park, police said.

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