A 33-year-old man is now facing charges of aggravated kidnapping and battery of a child after he is accused of choking an eight-year-old girl until she passed out at a restaurant restroom in Chicago.
The girl and her mom were at Jason's Deli on Friday and went to separate stalls at the restroom at 1:15 p.m.
According to the police, suspect Reese Hartstirn entered the facility, choked the girl and tried to lock her in the stall. Her mom heard her scream and grabbed her, ABC7 reported.
Hartstirn was held by people inside the restaurant until the police arrived. The victim was then brought to the Corner Children's Hospital.
Hartstirn was also charged with aggravated assault of a police officer for swinging at him. According to the Cook County Sheriff's Office, the suspect is being held without bond.
In a statement, Jason's Deli said the "unfortunate situation was handled very quickly. We're proud of how out team members responded and thankful that we have the kind of customers that are willing to lend a hand in a difficult situation."
Restaurant customer Crystal Anderson said, "You want your kid to be able to go to a bathroom in a restaurant and feel safe and not be scared... and not worry about someone trying to abduct your kid."
"It saddens me," said customer Kimberly Brown. "I don't get why people do things like this. I really wish I could understand it, but I don't."
The news comes as transgenders' right to use restrooms based on their gender identity has become a hot political topic across the U.S.
Writing on the conservative website Red State, Susan Wright said, "I'm sure his intent was innocent. I'm sure he really felt that he belonged in the women's restroom and the little girl was somehow oppressing him, which caused the confusion, resulting in his hands ending up around her neck."
"I'm equally sure this little girl, while she may recover physically, mentally and emotionally, she will have a long and tragic journey ahead."
The Chicago Public Schools system announced recently that it will allow transgender students to use restrooms and locker rooms that correspond to their gender identity.
Its policy is to provide transgender and gender nonconforming students with the same opportunities to participate in physical education, sexual health education, sports, club and other school events as all other students.