LAWRENCE — A naked man grabbed a 6-year-old girl and tried to drag her into the woods off a trail that runs between two baseball fields at the South Lawrence East School on Crawford Street, police said.
The girl had run ahead of her grandmother on the trail between the upper and lower ball fields about 6:25 p.m. Thursday and rounded a corner disappearing from sight momentarily, police said.
When the little girl screamed, the grandmother told police she ran ahead and when she rounded the corner she saw a naked man holding her granddaughter and attempting to pull the little girl into the woods.
When he saw the grandmother, the man released the girl and ran into the woods, police said.
The grandmother brought the child down the path and up to the area where the coaches were and reported the incident to them, and the coaches called police.
The man was described as being in his mid-50s with medium to dark skin, heavyset, homeless-looking, with a long salt-and-pepper, scraggly, unkempt beard.
Both the grandmother and the girl told police the man was naked and barefoot. Police Chief John Romero said upon investigation, officers learned a man had been seen naked in the same area last Saturday. Witnesses reported seeing a naked man with a similar description near where they were watching a baseball game.
"We found out about the first incident when we began investigating the second one,'' he said.
Police searched the area Thursday using a police dog from North Andover, but were unable to find the man. Yesterday, several officers walked through the trails in the wooded area between Shawsheen Park and the South Lawrence East School to see if they could find anyone or possible encampments where the man or others may be staying, Romero said.
"We are going on the premise that he may be a homeless man," Romero said. "We don't want children walking alone on that trail and if there have been any other incidents we want to know about them."
Romero said the department's sex offender tracking unit was participating in the investigation to determine whether the man might be among the city's registered sex offenders.
This was the second reported incident involving a naked man this week.
Police arrested a 74-year-old Andover man they found naked near a trash container behind the YWCA building at 38 Lawrence St. in full view of a Head Start day care playground across the street on Common Street, where children were playing at the time.
Mohammed Netterwala, 1 Funflight Circle, was charged with open and gross lewdness, drinking in public, trespassing, and disturbing the peace.
Police seized a bottle of Natural Ice Beer and a small bottle of New Amsterdam gin when they arrested Netterwala.