RIVERSIDE, Mo. — Police say Monday morning around 6:30 a.m. 13-year-old girl was walking to her bus stop on North Gateway near Mandan Street in Riverside when she was grabbed by a man who tried dragging her into the woods.
Luckily, one good Samaritan saw the whole thing and stopped the would-be abductor before he could do more harm. Now police are looking for the suspect and parents are looking for a way to keep their kids safe.
Chele Fredlund is always waiting for her son and neighbor girl to get off the school bus in the afternoon.
“Parents really need to be aware,” she said.
Monday she was reminded why. It was at her son’s bus stop that a 13-year-old girl was nearly abducted and taken into the woods, if it weren’t for a watchful person driving by she could have been gone.
“She very well could’ve made the difference between something very very bad happening and something not as bad as we have now,” said Sgt. Trevor Ballard from the Riverside Police Department.
Police say the suspect is a white or Hispanic man in his late 20s to 30s. He’s between 5’6″ and 5’9″ with a stocky build and very thin beard and mustache. Police say he was wearing a two-tone light over dark jacket. The sleeve of the jacket may have a diamond shaped logo.
Thomas Burt teaches karate and since Jessica Ridgeway’s disappearance he’s taught free self-defense classes for kids.
“Not everybody can afford full karate lessons, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have access to training,” Burt said.
He says the keys to kids being able to defend themselves are being confident, trusting their gut, staying calm, and getting away.
“It’s about escaping the situation, not being strong enough to take your opponent down,” Burt explained. Those lessons keep parent Joy León feeling more secure.
“It makes me feel a lot better, knowing that they’ll be able to defend themselves if something did come up,” she said.
Monday’s close call is a reminder to parents that something could come up, and your kids could be gone forever.
“It could be the blink of an eye, and they could be gone,” Fredlund said.
You’re asked to call the TIPS Hotline with information at 816-474-TIPS. For more information on free self-defense classes, follow this link.