On Thursday a 54-year-old man was brought before the courts to face charges for allegedly attacking and trying to choke a 4-month-old baby girl in a Walmart on Wednesday. The man was a stranger to the child and her parent, and only today did it become known that he is a former pastor from New Jersey.
Oleh Zhownirovych was brought before a Johnson County District Court at 1:30 p.m. to face charges of felony aggravated battery and misdemeanor battery against a 4-month-old baby girl. Fox 4 KC reported that bail had been set for the former pastor from Clifton, New Jersey at $100,000 before he was scheduled to appear in a Johnson County court on Thursday afternoon. The man was captured after a mother sounded an alarm with the complaint that he had been trying to choke her baby.
The Overland Park police report stated that the incident occurred on Wednesday at approximately 7:23 a.m. in an Overland Park Walmart. The child and her mother had been in a check out line when Oleh Zhownirovych, who was a stranger to the pair, approached them and immediately put his hands around the baby’s neck and began to choke her in plain view of those at the Overland Park Walmart at 75th Street and Frontage Road.
Leslee Wright, a spokesperson for Walmart, did let it be known though that the security guard had been quick to respond to the unfolding scene. The man is not a company employee but works for a security firm and though the company policy does not encourage security guards or bystanders to become physically involved in all altercations it was definitely the right thing to do here, as Wright agreed.
“I think they did act heroically. We don’t know what would have happened to that child. I think this definitely rose to the level of potentially life and death.”
When she spoke to the media, the baby girl’s mother Quisha Hill, said that when the stranger approached her, he had said to her that he was taking the baby moments before he attempted to drag the carrier out of the shopping cart she had it laid in. When the mother began to scream, the security guard, along with several bystanders, rushed to assist and managed to stop him from choking the baby. Hill was frantic as she recounted the moment.
“I come in to grab couple items, and as I while I was at the counter top, speaking with the lady and bagging up my groceries, this random man comes out of nowhere and yanks the car seat out of the cart, has my baby, and he’s like I’m taking the baby, I’m stealing her. I’m taking her. Call 911. Call 911.”
Walmart released a statement that they will be cooperating fully with investigators during the case and that their “main concern right now is for our customer and her child. We’re appalled this happened in our store.”
The former pastor was held down by those who assisted the mother until the police were able to arrive. Witnesses say they believe that the man had been under the influence of either drugs or alcohol. According to NJ.com Oleh Zhownirovych had become a former pastor by choice, having left his post with the Ukrainian Orthodox Holy Ascension Cathedral in Clifton approximately 10 months ago.
The 4-month-old baby girl was not seriously injured by the attempt to choke her and was treated at the scene by the responding paramedics.
The police said that the attack which the former pastor committed towards the child was meant to cause “great bodily harm, disfigurement or death” and is the reason for the felony aggravated battery charge. The charge for misdemeanor battery is between Zhownirovych and one of the men who helped subdue him.
Oleh Zhownirovych is due back in court on October 27.
[Featured Image by Johnson County (Kansas) Jail]