VISTA, Calif. — A North County school district urges families to be on alert after a young student was targeted in an attempted kidnapping earlier this week.
Officials with the Vista Unified School District say they received a credible report from the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department about the incident that happened Monday morning near a bus stop at West Los Angeles Drive and Georgia Lane.
“There’s always kids here — not something you hear about,” resident Star Padilla said. “I was really shocked.”
Deputies say the 13-year-old student at Roosevelt Middle School reported the incident about 8:30 a.m. Monday and told her parents about it the following day. The student said she was walking to the bus stop when a white van with no license plate passed and then made a U-turn back in her direction.
The sheriff’s department said the student told deputies a man exited the vehicle and told her in Spanish to get into it. He reportedly grabbed her by the backpack and shoulder, though deputies say she got away by “striking the man with her elbow” before fleeing to the bus stop.
Investigators are working to verify the student’s claims and checking surveillance cameras in the area.
“We understand parents are concerned, but this appears to be an isolated incident and there is no immediate danger to the public,” the department said.
Following the incident, the district sent out a safety alert to parents, teachers and staff to notify them about what happened.
Parents at the nearby Vista Magnet Middle School say they are on edge about it.
“I was freaking out because this could happen to my kid, you know what I mean?” said a parent who also has an eighth-grader.
The suspects are described as two Hispanic men in their 30s. They reportedly were driving an older model van with no license plates, tinted windows, double doors in the back and some minor damage to the vehicle.
In the interest of protecting families, the district sent out a series of safety tips. Among them:
- Choose a safe route for your child and walk it with them before they do it alone;
- Teach children not to talk to strangers or get into a vehicle with someone they don’t know;
- Use the buddy system; and
- Be aware of surroundings at all times and report anything unusual to an adult.
The district also said the sheriff’s department would provide more of a presence around the area.
“We have a lot of kids in our neighborhood who go to school here and we just fear for their safety,” parent Jeremy Burgess said. “Don’t think it can happen to you, but apparently, there are kidnappers around here.”