ST. LOUIS (AP) _ A 28-year-old woman who heard screams from a neighboring apartment prevented the rape of a 12-year-old girl by aiming a shotgun at the assailant, authorities say.

''She's a heroine,'' police Capt. Robert Richers said of Monica Jones. ''She did an outstanding job - simply outstanding.''

Ms. Jones said she heard the screams Tuesday night and went into the hallway of her building, where she saw the girl running naked from a man who had lived in the next apartment for about six months.

''It was pitiful,'' said Ms. Jones, a mother of three. ''That could have been me or my daughter.''

She went back to her apartment and got her single-barrel shotgun, then leveled it at the man as he tried to drag the screaming girl back into his apartment.

''I cocked it,'' Ms. Jones said. ''I was going to do what I had to do. I believe I would have shot him if I had to.''

She said another resident of the building approached and held a pistol on the man while Ms. Jones went and called police. When officers arrived at the building, they found Ms. Jones holding the man at bay.

During the standoff, Ms. Jones said, the man told her she was crazy for getting involved because she was not the one he had attacked. ''But he's the one who's crazy,'' she said. ''He's sick.''

Police on Wednesday charged Leon Fowler, 23, with kidnapping and attempted rape. Police alleged he grabbed the girl as she waited for a bus at a north St. Louis street corner Tuesday night and dragged her to his apartment.

Sgt. Ray Reynolds of the St. Louis police said officers appreciate citizen involvement to help fight crime. Ms. Jones said she acted out of fear but did not regret her actions.

''I really feel good about what I did,'' she said. ''I heard that little girl screaming, 'Help me, please help me.' It scared me so bad.'''