Stranger danger incident was misunderstanding, police say

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. -- Police on Wednesday said a reported "stranger danger" incident near Glendale Elementary School was an act of kindness, not a criminal act.

Unconvinced parents remain concerned that police did not immediately respond when they believed a kidnapper was trying to take their kids.

An Independence police detective escorted three kids to school Wednesday morning after Tuesday's scary incident.

The children, a fifth grader and two first graders, were walking home from school near 28th Street and East Cogan Drive, when they say a car stopped next to them and a woman got out and asked the kids if they were okay. The children told her they were fine, but the woman continued to follow on foot behind them. That's when the older boy told the younger kids to run home.

And all three ran to their homes, less than a block away.

Panicked parents called 911 to try to report the incident, but one parent claims she was put on hold for nearly 20 minutes, and had to call back. She said another waited on hold for two hours.

"It’s really sad that they didn’t even care what was going on," said Samantha Gonzalez, the mother of a first grade boy who was spooked by what happened. "They just put me on hold, didn’t even ask me what my emergency was, nothing. Somebody could have been dying or something way worse than what just happened and they didn’t do anything about it. They didn’t do anything about it. They didn’t care."

Gonzalez said eventually a dispatcher told her police would come to her home. But she said a police officer later called and told her they were too busy. Parents went to the school, which put out an alert, and then filed a report at the police station Tuesday night.

After interviewing the children Wednesday, police said the woman who approached them contacted detectives after seeing news reports of the incident. Police said the woman saw one child crying, and was only trying to make sure a younger child was not being bullied.

Detectives don't believe there was any criminal intent, and will review their initial response. Anxious parents believe the situation could have been handled much better.