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Search continues for sexual predator

March 3, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
Police patrols near Hoover Street Elementary School in the Westlake District were stepped up Monday as the search continued for a suspected child predator.It's nerve-racking news for parents in the Westlake District neighborhood. Authorities say on Friday a nine-year-old girl was walking to school when a man took her to an apartment building near the school and sexually assaulted her.

Police believe that the suspect may live in the area. The young victim didn't know the man's name but she did know his face. She says she'd seen him before in the neighborhood.

A number of parents chose to walk their children to school Monday after learning about the assault.

"My heart was like dropping because I have two girls. She is 11-years-old and she is 7-years-old. I am scared for them and for the other kid too. There are a lot of kids that walk to the school and then back home," said Betty Meder, a concerned parent.

LAPD stepped up patrol around Hoover Elementary School Monday.

The suspected predator apparently targeted the nine-year-old girl as she walked to school. He confronted her in the neighborhood and forced her to walk to a nearby apartment. She says she was then sexually assaulted by the man.

The young girl was able to break free from the suspect. She ran to campus a few blocks away and told a teacher about what had just happened. The teacher then called police.

With the suspect at large, parents say that they were grateful for the extra police presence. They are also letting their kids now how important it is to be aware of their surroundings.

"If something does happen and somebody does abduct you should scream, fight, bite and scratch. God forbid that man would of gotten that little girl if she didn't fight. She would of been dead somewhere and at least the DNA would of been under the kid's fingernails. Then they could find the guy. You've got to teach your kids that there are options," said Kimberly Thomas, a concerned parent.

Students are dealing with the news. They say that they will follow the advice, from their parents and teachers, to be more alert near the campus.

"I was a little bit at first scared because this doesn't really happen. But I have heard about it and other stories on TV that this happens. But I cannot believe that this would happen at our school. It is just a shock because you do not know who it is," said Relkia Meder, a student.

"Yeah I thought, I thought that like it was sad for her because she was like crying," said Christopher Francis, a classmate of the victim.

It's upsetting news for parents in the neighborhood.

"'Cause I checked online and I know that there's a lot of sexual predators around my neighborhood, but to hear that it actually happened is frightening,' said Sonia Valiente, neighborhood parent. "And I'm going to have to have another talk with my daughter to be very careful in the mornings."

"Teachers and parents we all have to work together. We need to work together like a team for the security of the kids," said Betty Meder, a concerned parent.

Authorities also are informing parents and children about safety.

"When there is more than two children in a group suspects are known to steer away from them. They target people who are by themselves. They look for children who are not aware of their surroundings and not paying attention," said Officer Ann Aguirre, LAPD.

Police have released a composite sketch of the suspect. He's described as a Latino man in his 20s with light skin.

Authorities are asking for the public's help in finding the suspect, who remains on the run. If you have any information, you're asked to call the Los Angeles Police Department at (877) LAW-FULL. You can remain anonymous.

Eyewitness News reporters Sid Garcia and Lisa Hernandez contributed to this report.

 

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