EARLY - Police checked out a report of “suspicious activity” behind Heartland Mall Friday night and arrived to find an 18-year-old man and 14-year-old girl who’d just had sexual intercourse, Early Police Chief David Mercer said.

Police arrested Douglas Hardway, of Brownwood, on a charge of sexual assault, Brown County Jail records state. Hardway remained jailed Monday in lieu of $50,000 bond.

Mercer said officers Keith Varner and Nathan Land were dispatched to the area of the Dumpsters behind the mall around 10:30 p.m. after someone reported suspicious activity.

Varner arrived to find a male and female sitting on the ground between the Dumpsters, Mercer said. Upon further investigation, Mercer said, Varner learned the two had just finished having sexual intercourse.

Hardway was detained pending the investigation and the girl’s mother was contacted. The girl was taken to the Brownwood Regional Medical Center emergency room where a sexual assault exam was performed, and DNA evidence was collected, Mercer said.

Mercer said police learned the girl had gone to the mall to see the movie “High School Musical” and she and Hardway saw each other at the mall. He said the two already knew each other.

Mercer did not know if the girl ever saw the movie.

The incident prompted mall manager Charlotte Parrack to issue a reminder that mall policy requires youths under 16 to be accompanied by a parent or guardian if they are at the mall on Friday and Saturday nights after 6 p.m.

Parrack said that policy has been in effect for the 14 years she has been at the mall.

“My security guard called in sick (Friday) night so I had no security,” Parrack said.

She said it’s not safe for youths, vendors or shoppers if large groups of youths roam the mall. “It is not my job to babysit their children. It is (parents’) job,” Parrack said.

“I am saddened that this incident happened,” Parrack said in an e-mail. “Unfortunately, we live in an unsafe world and Heartland Mall will do everything we can to adopt a zero policy on our current code of conduct to not only protect our property, but young unsupervised children as well. Parents will be called to pick up their children if unsupervised in the mall on Friday and Saturday nights.”