by: Richard Elliot Updated:ATLANTA —
Atlanta police arrested a "suspicious" man at Tanyard Branch Park after they learned he was wanted in Cobb County for failing to register as a convicted sex offender.
Christopher Whitehill, 45, was arrested Wednesday afternoon after Elizabeth Harkey said he acted "creepy" and followed her and the children she was babysitting around the park.
"This man just came out and sat really, really close to the playground," Harkey said. "It kind of gave me a weird feeling. He didn't go away. He kept watching us, kind of wandering around the playground, so I got a little uneasy."
Harkey said she first spotted Whitehill two weeks ago when he followed her through two different Northwest Atlanta parks. She said she called police then, but he vanished before they arrived.
But when she saw him again Wednesday while she was watching her friend's children, she snapped a cellphone picture, then called the Collier Hills Security Patrol. The patrol arrived along with Atlanta police and detained Whitehill. When they ran his name, they said he came back with warrants out of Cobb County.
Cobb County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Nancy Bodiford said Whitehill was wanted for failing to register as a convicted sex offender along with burglary and aggravated assault charges. Channel 2 Action News looked into his background and learned he was convicted of assault in 1999. Jail records show it was an assault with intent to rape. He was released in 2008.
Harkey praised the quick response of APD and the Collier Hills Security Patrol for their quick response.
"That's absolutely terrifying because I was out there by myself," Harkey said. "Just to think that anything could've happened to somebody, a mom or a nanny or a kid is just, ugh, I'm going to have nightmares."
Elisa Gambino said her 15-year-old daughter witnessed the arrest, then told her that she had seen Whitehill acting strangely in the park just last week.
"She was in the park, and she came home, and she said, 'Mom, there was a man that growled at me,’" Gambino said. "Then she saw yesterday he was the same man who was arrested."
Police records show Whitehill complained of a medical situation and was taken to Grady Memorial Hospital where they detained him inside the hospital's detention unit. Cobb County expects he will be returned to them once he is released.