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Girl grabbed at bus stop, gets away

BRADENTON — A scare at a local school bus stop after a 12-year-old girl reported a man tried to grab her had police on high alert Monday, and that is expected to continue this morning at area bus stops.

The King Middle School student said she was waiting at her bus stop in the 1600 block of Second Avenue East, when at about 8:30 a.m. she noticed a man watching her.

She told police the man started to walk toward her, causing the girl to take off running. The man followed and grabbed the girl’s arm, she told police.

“Come with me,” the man said, according to police reports.

“No,” the girl replied, kicking him.

After the kick, the girl said she was able to break free and run home, where she called her parents and the police, according to Bradenton Police Deputy Chief William Tokajer.

“It is everyone’s worst nightmare for a child to be abducted, so she did a very good job getting away and calling the right people immediately,” Tokajer said.

The girl’s claims led police detectives to monitor school bus stops as school let out Monday afternoon, and police will also monitor bus stops this morning, Tokajer said.

“We have no reason to doubt this happened, and we are taking it very seriously,” Tokajer said.

Bradenton police detectives also combed the streets and woods around the bus stop for the man, who the girl described as having a medium build, a beard and shaggy hair. He was wearing dark pants and a dirty, white shirt, according to police.

School district officials also sent out an automated phone call to homes with students from the girl’s bus stop, and other parents of students at nearby Manatee and Wakeland elementary schools informing them of the incident, according to district spokeswoman Margi Nanney.

“We are asking parents to be vigilant. Waiting with their kids at the bus stop can be very important, and that goes for every day of the week, not just when something like this happens,” Nanney said.

Manatee County Sheriff’s Office deputies will also be on guard to keep an eye on bus stops in the area this morning, according to sheriff’s spokesman Dave Bristow.

The sheriff’s office has already investigated unrelated reports of suspicious behavior by a man at area school bus stops in October. Officials said on at least two occasions a man driving a green or white van approached children at bus stops in Palmetto and Ellenton, attempting to get their attention with a Chihuahua dog.

After those reports, the school district sent out a mass e-mail, an automated telephone message and letters to parents informing them of the incidents.

Bradenton police on Monday called on parents to be watchful of their children at their bus stops.

“We always encourage parents to be very cautious with their kids, watching them as they go to the bus stop,” Tokajer said.

Anyone with information on Monday’s incident can call Bradenton police Detective Kevin Bunch at (941) 932-9300, or Manatee Crimestoppers at (866) 634-TIPS.