MINNEAPOLIS — Parents are on high alert after a child abduction attempt outside an elementary school in the city's southwest side Monday.
The Minneapolis Police Dept. is taking the case seriously and urged residents in the area of Lake Harriet Community School's lower campus to check their surveillance cameras for footage that signs of the abductor.
"Also, anyone who happens to have a Ring doorbell service with video is asked to review that footage as well," Sgt. Darcy Horn of the Minneapolis PD told reporters Wednesday.
The girl is a third grader at the Lower Harriet campus, at 41st Street and Chowen Avenue South. She had stayed late for an after-school program and was playing outside the school building with other children at 5:30 p.m. when she encountered the strange man.
The girl ran into school screaming that a man had grabbed her. Police have not said whether any words were exchanged before the child broke free.
"The juvenile in this incident did everything right," Sgt. Horn said.
"She screamed. She was able to walk away. She found a trusted adult, and asked that adult to call 9-1-1."
The suspect is described as a white man who is 50 to 60 years old, about six feet tall with a thin build, and a long black beard that reaches to his chest. At the time of attempted abduction he was wearing a flat "newsboy" hat, a black jacket and peach-colored pants.
Audrey Simon, a Lake Harriet parent, told KARE she was impressed with how quickly the school, school district and the PTA alerted parents about the danger.
"They gave us great information, but hit still hits so close to home," Simon remarked.
The Minneapolis Public Schools notified parents via phone and an an email message that included several lists of safety tips, some geared toward kids and some for parents.
"I got the voice mail first and got such a pit in my stomach when I heard this news. It was a very odd, scary feeling."
Among those tips for children was to never approach the vehicle of a stranger who pulls over to ask for directions or other help. Children are also advised never to answer the door to strangers or to reveal that their parents aren't home.
Children are urged to say, "Mom/Dad can't come to the door right now" or "Mom/Dad can't come to the phone right now" instead. They're urged to scream and fight any would-be abductor, and run to other adults they know and trust.
One of the parents on the Fulton area Next Door website said a stranger fitting the description approached his children while they were playing in the backyard last Sunday.
According to the Nextdoor post, the bearded man was walking a small, white dog on a leash. He left the sidewalk to cut through the family's side yard, and walked up to the fence to the back yard.
At that point the man encountered the mother of the children, and asked for a doggy bag, meaning an empty plastic bag for dog poop. The Nextdoor poster gave the man the bag, but said the sound of the man's voice made his hairs stand on end.
It happened in the area of 58th Street and Sheridan Ave. South, which is very near Armat age Montessori School.
The man who posted the account on Nextdoor confirmed the story to KARE, but didn't want to be identified or go on camera because the incident left him feeling very uneasy.