MERCED, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – A man was arrested after he sexually assaulted a girl while she was walking to school on Wednesday morning, according to the Merced Police Department.

Officials said 29-year-old David Joseph Hart has been arrested for lewd and lascivious acts with a child, assault with the intent to commit a felony, criminal threats, false imprisonment, sexual battery, and child endangerment.

Around 8:20 a.m., officers were called out to the Weaver Elementary School for a report of an assault.

Officers said they learned that a child had been sexually assaulted by a man armed with a knife while she was walking to school that morning.

While investigating, detectives said they found out that a man had been harassing minors in the same area in August.

Girl sexually assaulted by suspect while walking to school, Merced police say
Image courtesy of the Merced Police Department

Detectives said they were able to find surveillance footage from a previous incident, showing a man driving a white Jeep Renegade.

Using this information, officials said they were able to find footage of the same Jeep driving around the area where the girl had been assaulted on Wednesday.

After viewing hundreds of photos from license plate readers, detectives said they were able to link the Jeep to Hart’s ex-wife.

Hart was arrested in Atwater on Friday after officers saw him leaving the place where he works.

Detectives said they believe Hart may have been involved in other incidents that were not reported.

Anyone with information about Hart is asked to call Detective Alicia Gorman at 209-388-7715