About once every three months, some twit or Facebook post will go viral. It will be from a mother who tells the story of how her lil’ darling was almost kidnapped, be it at the Walmart toy aisle or the parking lot of the Piggly Wiggly. It will put other mothers on high alert. It will raise fears. It will generate thousands of validating twits about how brave the mom was, and how wondrous a parent must be to use her eagle-eyes to spot the predator who almost kidnapped her sweet child.
The key word here is “almost,” because none of these tales involve the creepy guy in the white van offering candy to a child if they come close enough to snatch. They involve some guy who looked creepy. Maybe he did or maybe creepy looking is a by-product of paranoia. Maybe the mom’s tale is correct, that he was eyeing the child with bad intent, but no one will never know because it didn’t happen. It almost happened.
What did happen was that Patricia Benitez and her husband, Christopher Shapira, were arrested and held out in the local news as the creepy kidnappers of a three-year-old girl.
A man and woman are still in custody at the Bexar County Jail after deputies say they tried to kidnap a 3-year old girl over the weekend.
Selena Lopez did not want to show her face, but she says she has lived at this mobile home park, just off Loop 1604 near Shaenfield, for about a year and a half.
She is also the mother of a two-year old boy.
“I don’t know what I would do,” said Lopez.
How horrifying for Lopez. How horrible of Benitez and Shapira.
On Saturday morning, deputies say 47-year old Christopher Shapira and 58-year old Patricia Benitez tried to kidnap a three-year old girl who was playing outside.
“That’s crazy,” said Lopez. “It’s astonishing. You don’t think it’ll happen in your area.”
Except it was exactly what Lopez thought would happen in her area. But for her belief, her leap to paranoia of “stranger danger” as Lenore Skenazy calls it, this horrible “crime” would have been nothing more than two nice people walking their dogs when a child asked if he could pet one. They let the little girl do so. Lopez could have seen it as a nice couple doing nothing more than letting a child pet a dog or, as she chose to do, a kidnapping of her baby girl happening before her very eyes.
What Lopez saw was risk, danger, threat and a horrible crime. And once accused, it became real.
“It’s crazy to experience this,” said Christopher Shapira.
“Thousands and thousands of people were making threats against us not knowing a single thing about us,” said Shapira’s wife, Patricia Benitez.
Shapira and Benitez say threats of physical harm and dozens of death threats ruined their livelihoods after they were accused of trying to kidnap a three-year old girl in October of 2019.
The beliefs were so spurious that they failed to pass scrutiny under the ham sandwich test.
Recently, a grand jury returned a no bill of indictment for the charges against them.
“There was so little evidence they couldn’t even find a probable cause that this happened,” said Shannon Locke, the attorney representing Shapira and Benitez.
Shapira and Benitez say they were walking their dogs when a girl asked if she could pet one of them.
They directed the little girl to pet one that would be less likely to bite her.
Locke says that’s when the girl’s mother came out and a big misunderstanding took place.
The “big misunderstanding” made Shapira and Benitez hated for being pedos and kidnappers. They were convicted in the court of public opinion long before the grand jury no-true-billed the case. They were threatened with death by their fellow San Antonians, because who doesn’t despise kidnapping pedophiles and believe they deserve to suffer pain, harm and death?
Except they were just two nice people walking their dogs.
The inclination to believe that conduct of others presents too grave a risk of harm, particularly to children, takes comfort in its good intent. After all, who would condemn a person for caring too much about the safety of a child? It’s hard to imagine anyone arguing that any harm to children is acceptable, and therefore there is no protection too extreme when it comes to the young. It’s a seductive argument, must like the argument that “one rape is too many.”
But while fears and the impulse to rush to accusation might be understandable, it doesn’t make them rational. If Lopez was afraid that her daughter was at risk, she need only have intervened, taken her daughter away from the creepy dog-walking couple and, recognizing that they hadn’t actually done anything remotely bad, posted on Facebook about how she saved her daughter from an almost-kidnapping. She would have been the hero of her story, and basked in the praise of her fellow paranoids, and Benitez and Shapira would have finished their dog walk.
But even now, perhaps cognizant of the potential for a § 1983 suit, the Bexar County Sheriff continues to stand firmly in support of the children.
The Sheriff issued the following statement:
“I still firmly believe that what occurred that day is disturbing. What the grand jury ultimately decided cannot change what transpired. Had the mother of that little girl not looked up in time and confronted these two people, there’s no way to know what would have happened.”
He’s right, there’s no way to know what would have happened. Ignorance, in a sane world, is a reason not to act, not to arrest, not to accuse. Not knowing doesn’t make two people out walking their dogs kidnappers. It makes the person believing them to be possible kidnappers fearful, and when fear captures reason, the lives of nice people walking their dogs can be destroyed for nothing.