San Diego County

Men in Van Try to Grab Boys Near Poway Elementary School: District

The incident reportedly happened near Painted Rock Elementary School in Poway, at Martincoit and Rostrata roads, Thursday after school

Principals within the Poway Unified School District (PUSD) are warning parents of the possible attempted abduction of two boys by a group of men in a van who allegedly tried to grab them as they walked to a friend’s house.

The incident happened Thursday afternoon near Painted Rock Elementary School at Martincoit and Rostrata roads, according to an email sent to parents Friday morning by the principals of nearby PUSD schools, including Tierra Bonita Elementary School, Monterey Ridge Elementary School, and Westview High School.

In the memo, principals Mandy Bedard (Tierra Bonita), Sal Embry (Monterey Ridge) and Tina Ziegler (Westview) detail the incident reported by two students who said they were walking near Painted Rock Elementary School Thursday afternoon when three men in a white van approached them.

According to the boys, one man reached out of the van in an attempt to grab them and yelled for them to get into the vehicle. The email said the van followed the boys for a while before driving off.

The students were not harmed. The incident was reported to the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department (SDSO) and is under investigation. 

PUSD public information officer Christine Paik told NBC 7 that the message alerting parents of the incident was sent to families at all schools within the district.

As a precaution, Paik said the SDSO will be increasing patrols around Painted Rock Elementary School. The district has also made counselors available at the school for kids or parents who need to talk about the incident. She said parents were also provided with tips to keep their kids safe.

Paik is not sure if the children involved in the alleged attempted abduction are students at Painted Rock. She said they are students within PUSD.

The emails alerting PUSD parents said the case should serve as a reminder to urge kids to be cautious when walking to and from school and around the Poway neighborhoods. The memos did not include descriptions of the suspects.

SDSO officials released more details just before 2 p.m. Friday.

Investigators said the incident happened just after 6 p.m. The victims – ages 12 and 9 – reported that the van drove slowly behind them as they walked, eventually pulling up next to them.

The 12-year-old told the SDSO that the passenger in the front seat was wearing a black ski mask and had rolled down the window. The boy said the man then tried to grab him from the window yelling, “Get in the car!”

The boy got away and the two victims ran to a nearby friend’s house and called 911.

According to investigators, the man who tried to grab the boy was described as a having “muscular, hairy arms.” The children were not able to give deputies any further descriptions of the men inside the van. The vehicle was described as an older model, dirty, white van with a dent over the rear passenger tire well.

The SDSO said there were no witnesses. At this point, no one has been arrested in connection with the case. The investigation is ongoing. Anyone with details can reach out to the SDSO’s Poway Station at (858) 513-2800.

Painted Rock Elementary School serves students in kindergarten through fifth grade.

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