Crime and Courts

Manhunt Underway After 9-Year-Old Poway Unified Student Reports Kidnap Attempt

The suspect is described as a slim, roughly 5-foot-11-inch man traveling on foot wearing a face mask, dark pants and black shoes, and smelling strongly of alcohol

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Authorities were on the lookout Wednesday for a man who reportedly tried to kidnap a 9-year-old girl this week in a Carmel Mountain Ranch-area neighborhood.

The child was at Shoal Creek Drive and Stoney Gate Place at about 2 p.m. Tuesday, waiting for her mother to pick her up after school, when the would-be abductor approached her and told her to follow him, according to the San Diego Police Department.

"When the child refused, the man grabbed her by the wrist and dragged her," SDPD public-affairs Lt. Adam Sharki said. "She broke free and ran to safety."

The girl described the perpetrator as a slim, roughly 5-foot-11-inch man wearing a ski mask, dark pants and black shoes, and smelling strongly of alcohol, the lieutenant said.

"This is your classic case of StrangerDanger, right?" Sharki said. "The girl knew not to go with this adult ... she fought, she made noise, and she was able to get away.”

School officials at the Poway Unified School District, where the girl attends school, were warning families to be vigilant.

"We wanted our families and staff to be on high alert, especially if your children attend/walk to and from school near Shoal Creek Elementary School in the Carmel Mountain Ranch area," said an email sent from PUSD. "Officers are currently searching for the suspect overhead in a helicopter as well as on the ground."

Understandably, parents are rattled by the news.

“For the years that I’ve been here, it's been pretty much safe, and I typically picked my son up there, since it's been so safe, all the kids running around, and now I’m very nervous and I have to be on top of everything,” said Staci Nguyen, whose son is a fifth-grader at the school.

Poway school officials said the suspect was traveling on foot, not in a vehicle. They were also had safety suggestions for families that might want to share with their children:

  • Walk in the company of others
  • Stay in view of the street (do not go into hidden areas like bushes)
  • Be alert (wearing headphones can reduce awareness)
  • If a passing vehicle stops, do not get too close
  • If a suspicious stranger approaches you, get away and tell an adult immediately

Anybody with information about the case is being urged to contact San Diego police.

"If there's something that was missed or something that wasn't reported, we'd love to hear from people who may have had an experience or may have seen something, or maybe their kids saw something and they haven't reported that," Sharki said. "Now it would be a good time to do that.”

With reporting from NBC 7's Amber Frias — Ed.

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