WHITTIER — Police and community members were on high alert Friday following reports of a predator in a red convertible attempting to kidnap girls in Whittier.
The most recent kidnap attempt was reported Thursday near Founders Memorial Park, when an 11-year-old Whittier girl was kidnapped by a masked man, according to Whittier police. She escaped from the suspect’s car and freed another frightened 7-year-old girl already apparently being held captive in the car. <USDEFAULT>The girls didn’t know each other.
Lt. Kent Miller said the suspect also tried to lure three teens into his car during two separate incidents last week.
Police have notified all Whittier school district superintendents and are asking for the public’s help in identifying the suspect.
As a precaution, “Patrol is beefed up in the areas around schools,” Officer Bradley White said.
Area schools notified parents via recorded messages of the situation Friday morning.
A recorded message sent to Whittier High School parents advised, “While this did not involve any Whittier High students,<USDEFAULT> as a precaution for those who walk to school, for your safety, please make every effort to have your students walk in a group and report any suspicious activity.”
Thursday’s kidnapping took place about 2:35 p.m. in front of Founders Memorial Park near Broadway and Citrus Avenue.
Miller said the 11-year-old was walking alone when she was grabbed and put into the back seat of a convertible which had the top up.
“Apparently the suspect walked away from the car. She jumped out,” <NO1><NO>Miller said.
When the older girl opened the door, she and the other girl ran out in opposite directions.
The 11-year-old made her way home and called police.
Police had not found the younger girl Friday, White said. The department hadn’t received any reports of missing children.
Last week a 17-year-old girl was walking by herself in the 1300 block of Broadway at 11:25 a.m. Feb. 5 when the suspect pulled over and asked if she wanted a ride.
“After the victim told him no, he proceeded to stop the car and open the door,” Miller said.
The teen ran and called police.
Then around 4:40 p.m., someone reported a similar incident.
The witness was in the 6700 block of Washington Avenue which is across the street from Central Park. Police said the witness saw two high-school-aged girls get into a verbal confrontation with the suspect who told them to get into his car.
The man fled.
The witness wasn’t able to get the names of the girls and the police received no calls from the alleged victims.
In all three cases, the suspect was seen driving a red convertible with a tan roof. He was described as a Latino, 25 to 35, of medium to heavy build and between 5 feet 11 inches to 6 feet tall.
The kidnapping victim described the suspect as having short black hair with a tattoo of three dots on his left hand.
He covered his face with some sort of mask, “possibly a ski mask,” White said.
Police did not have enough information about the suspect’s appearance to create a composite sketch, White said. But investigators hoped that would change with the help of the public, as well as any victims who have not contacted by police.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Whittier Police Department at 562-567-9241 or Detective Woods at 562-567-9286.
– Ruby Gonzales (Brian Day contributed to this report)