An 11-year-old girl was walking to school in Glendale, Arizona, on Friday morning, when a silver car stopped in front of her and a “suspicious” man allegedly jumped out and attempted to kidnap her.
The terrifying ordeal was caught on a nearby home’s surveillance camera.
According to Arizona’s Family, the fifth-grader left her apartment building on her way to Sunset Elementary School when she spotted a man she later told police was “suspicious,” sitting at the bottom of the staircase.
The bearded man, who was dressed in blue sweatpants and a black jacket with a hood that covered his head, gave her an “odd look” as she passed by him, she said. It made her uncomfortable enough that she immediately started running through her apartment complex.
Once on Onyx Avenue, the little girl said a silver car stopped in front of her and the same man jumped out, his arms extended, and began running after her. The girl screamed for help and raced toward a group of her friends.
Police say he gave chase for a short distance before giving up, returning to his car, and driving away. The girl’s three friends gathered around her and the group walked together the rest of the way to school.
The video revealed the incident went down exactly as the girl had described. Officers soon spied a silver four-door Chevrolet sedan and a man matching the suspect’s description walking toward the apartment complex.
They arrested Joseph Leroy Ruiz, 37, and charged him with attempted kidnapping and custodial interference. He lives in the area, police said, and he and the girl did not know each other.
Investigators say Ruiz didn’t deny the allegations during a police interview, wanting only to know how long he would be “locked up.” The suspect has a violent past, police said. In 2013, Ruiz was charged with attempted first-degree murder and aggravated assault.
“As a father myself, as a parent, it’s very frightening that on her normal walk to school, she was targeted,” Glendale police officer Moroni Mendez said during a Monday press briefing. “Someone tried to take her away from her loving family.”
Following the shocking incident, one neighbor is making time to tell kids in the area to “be more vigilant.”
“I spoke to several kids after the incident because they came by, and I told them to be more vigilant. Don’t be on your phones. Keep headphones off your ears so you can hear someone coming behind you, or you can see,” the man told Arizona’s Family. “It was traumatizing. You couldn’t sleep that night even just thinking what could we have done better to help this little girl.”
On Friday, the Washington Elementary School District (WESD) responded to the attempted kidnapping with a letter to parents.
“The safety of our students on their way to and from school is as important as their safety in the classroom,” the district said. “We commend the work of Sunset Elementary’s principal, Aimee Wojciechowski, for taking appropriate action and thoroughly investigating the student’s report, as well as the Glendale Police Department, for their quick response and speed at which they were able to resolve the matter.”
“Most importantly,” WESD said, “we want to acknowledge the bravery of our student, who quickly ran from the area, found the safety of classmates and reported the incident to her teacher when she arrived to school. We are grateful that our student is safe.”
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