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Hacienda Hts. would-be kidnapper at large

January 30, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
People in Hacienda Heights are on the alert for a would-be kidnapper. Sheriff's deputies say he tried to kidnap an 8-year-old boy on his way to school.Investigators call it a brazen attempt. They say the young boy was with his mother when the suspect tried to pull him off the sidewalk. It happened on the 14000 block of Palm Ave.

Authorities have a pretty detailed description of the suspect and a good composite sketch but so far no good leads, which is why they're turning to the public for help.

L.A. County Sheriff's Dept. Lt. Steven Katz said the man parked his car near the boy, got out, and grabbed the 8-year-old by the collar.

"The boy was being followed by his mother, who saw what was going on," said Lt. Katz. "She screamed out. The suspect released the little boy, returned to his car and drove off."

It happened half a block away from Palm Elementary School in a neighborhood residents describe as quiet and safe.

"This never happened around here in the area, especially with small kids, with your older kids you can't ... go to the park by themselves no more," said concerned parent Olivia Cendejas. "You have to be walking with them and stuff so I'm very concerned about this."

Parents like Alma and Oscar George, who have three young boys at Palm Elementary, say the assault has prompted them to be even more cautious with their children.

"We're just, we're just pretty much like doing the same thing, picking them up but we'll never let them go home by themselves," said Oscar George. "It's either me or her that come to pick them up."

Though fearful it could happen again, parents say they're pleased with the school's handling of the incident. Letters have been sent home and parents are being kept informed. Meantime, sheriff's deputies are joining efforts with school district authorities to increase police presence at all the local schools.

"We're taking this very seriously," said Lt. Katz. "We've got a lot of resources involved in trying to locate this individual and we're making additional patrol checks at all the local schools during the times the kids are being dropped off and being picked up."

The suspect is described as a male Hispanic, 5' 4", weighing 200 pounds, with short dark hair shaved on the sides, a thin mustache and a scar under his left eye in the shape of a "V." He was seen driving a mid-'90s two-door gray Honda Accord, with side and rear tinted windows. The car is missing a front bumper and has faded paint on the roof.

Anyone with information about the suspect or the suspect's vehicle is asked to call the L.A. County Sheriff's deputies at (626) 330-3322.


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