The attack happened at 1:45 pm. Sunday as the girl played in the toy aisle of the 99 Cents Only store at 20882 Mission Blvd. in unincorporated Hayward.
"Like most children (she) was focused on the toy." said Alameda County Sheriff's Sgt. Ray Kelly. "These predators of children often use this means of distraction in committing these crimes."
Sgt. Kelly said it appears the victim was unaware of the suspect and his intent.
"While she was playing in the toy aisle, a man approached her and forced his hand down her pants," explained Kelly.
The girl was taken to UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital Oakland for a sexual assault exam. Authorities released the surveillance camera image of the suspect shortly after 7 p.m. Monday night.
"Oh wow, that's sad!" said Huey Hampton as he sat in the parking lot with his granddaughter, Destiny. "That's why I keep her in the shopping cart, so she can't run around in the store."
The suspect is described as a light skinned African American, or multi-racial man. He is 18 to 19 years old, six feet tall with a fade flat-top haircut. He was wearing a white t-shirt, dark jeans, and black tennis shoes. He was able to get out of the store before being caught.
"This case is a high priority for the sheriff's office," Kelly said.
Anyone with information should call Alameda County Sheriff's Investigations Unit at (510) 667-3636 or call the unit's anonymous tip line at (510) 667-3622.