RENTON, Wash. – Detectives at the Renton Police Department are investigating two possible attempted child abductions.
Investigators said there is no indication the two cases are related; however, officers expressed concern since both children attend the same school. Renton School District confirmed the two students attend Hazelwood Elementary School.
School bus surveillance video captured the moments right before a 9-year-old girl was grabbed by a man who pulled her backward.
Det. Robert Onishi said the bus driver noticed a silver car next to the girl’s bus stop.
“The driver had actually been concerned enough about that car sitting there and to ask the victim 'Is that anybody you know?'” said Onishi.
The detective said the possible attempted abduction happened on Jan. 8 on the 4900 block of Lake Washington Blvd. Onishi said the suspect was described as a male wearing an optic yellow jacket with reflective panels. He said the girl was walking home at the time of the incident.
“As she was about to cross the street, somebody had grabbed her backpack from behind. A backpack she was wearing. She had screamed and he let her go,” said Onishi.
A second possible attempted abduction happened on the 1400 block of Lake Washington Blvd. on Jan. 23. A 10-year-old boy was walking home from his bus stop when a man got out of the front passenger seat of a black truck and approached the child.
Investigators said the suspect was described as a 30 to 40-year-old male with a medium build who was approximately 6 feet tall and was wearing a short sleeve hoodie.
“Gave him a story about, ‘Oh, your mother sent me because she couldn’t make it. So, I’m supposed to pick you up.’ He didn’t believe that, which is good. He backed away, he said the male attempted to grab him, he fled back down the hill, the bus driver hailed him back on the bus,” said Onishi.
The detective said he doesn’t believe the cases are related based on the differences in suspect and vehicle descriptions. Onishi also mentioned there is no indication the school buses were being followed by the suspects.
The Renton School District said both situations are alarming.
“It’s something that doesn’t happen often. But, when it does it’s disturbing to the school district, it’s disturbing to parents, staff members and of course the students specifically,” said district spokesperson Randy Matheson.
The district sent a letter to alert parents, stating in part, “security has increased patrols along Lake Washington Blvd. Renton school bus drivers are also being vigilant along their routes.”
“Revisit our safety and security techniques and operations. And just to make sure that we’re being vigilant as we’re out and about in the community,” said Matheson.
The letter also listed safety tips parents should talk to their kids about.
“Be aware of their surroundings, stay in groups if they can, never talk to strangers, never get in anyone’s car, never give directions to strangers,” said Matheson.
“If you are going to have somebody pick up your child, you should have a protocol in place where there’s a certain code word, so they know whether that person who’s saying they’re there to pick you up is actually sent by your parent or not,” said Onishi.
The detective also encouraged parents to talk to their kids about the importance of getting as many descriptive details as possible in situations like this. He said adults could also use the advice.
“License plates are terrific, getting a look at somebody if you can see them in terms of their facial features, they’re description of clothing,” said Onishi.
The detective said investigators will continue canvassing for any additional video and evidence to help track down the suspects. He also asked the public to keep an eye out for any suspicious behavior around schools and bus stops.
Onishi is applauding the brave kids for running away from the situation and is urging more parents to talk to their children about these worst-case scenarios.
“Those are excellent examples of why you go over these things with your kids. Not an easy conversation, ever. You’d like to think that nothing would ever go wrong. But, it’s good to prepare them,” said Onishi.