LADERA RANCH – Police have arrested a 73-year-old man on suspicion of committing a lewd act in front of children being dropped off at Serra Catholic Preschool, authorities said Friday.
Just after 8 a.m. Wednesday, Orange County Sheriff’s Department deputies responded to a call about a man at the edge of the preschool parking lot with his hands down his pants, according to the Sheriff’s Department blotter.
A witness identified the man as Wilhelmino Gatbonton and told investigators he was watching children enter the preschool at the time, according to Sheriff’s Department news release about the incident. Investigators interviewed several children and parents who were in the parking lot during the incident.
The department’s Special Victims Detail contacted Gatbonton at his residence, according to the release. Gatbonton admitted to being in the parking lot at the time of the incident; he was arrested and booked into Orange County Jail on a charge of child annoyance.
Serra Catholic Preschool is part of Serra Catholic School in Rancho Santa Margarita. School president Angeline Trudell sent a note to parents Thursday morning notifying them of the incident. The note also went to Ladera Ranch KinderCare, according to a staff member there. There are two other schools in the area, Umaña Academy of Fine Arts and Montessori of Ladera Ranch.
In the note, Trudell said “that although none of the children saw or understood what he was doing, some of our Serra parents did observe the incident.”
Trudell said although there was never a threat to the children, “we will be hiring a security guard for the preschool for the next few days to ensure students and staff remain safe.”
Gatbonton posted bail and was released Thursday morning at 10:35 a.m., according to jail records.