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An 11-year-old girl in Florida fought off a man who allegedly tried to kidnap her from a bus stop Tuesday morning in a harrowing incident caught on video.
Jared Stanga, 30, is now facing charges of attempted kidnapping of a child under 13, and aggravated assault and battery after authorities were allegedly able to link him to the crime through surveillance footage that captured the vehicle used in the kidnapping attempt.
“We have caught the animal that tried to kidnap an 11-year-old girl this morning,” Escambia County Sheriff Chip W. Simmons said in a press conference Tuesday night announcing the arrest.
Simmons said the kidnapping attempt took place around 7 a.m. Tuesday when an 11-year-old girl was waiting for the bus and playing with some blue slime as she sat in a grassy area near the road.
A white van can be seen in surveillance footage released by the department pulling up alongside the girl before a man jumps out and approaches her with what Simmons said was a knife in his hand. He picks her up and tries to carry her to the van. The girl is able to fight back and escape before the man runs back to the van and quickly drives away.
“She fought and she fought and she fought until finally she was able to break free from her would be captor,” Simmons said of the heroic escape.
The girl reported the kidnapping attempt to her parents, who called the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office, launching a massive manhunt for the suspect.
The sheriff’s office deployed at least 50 deputies and plain clothes detectives to knock on doors in the area and obtain surveillance footage that helped them identify the vehicle and license plate used in the alleged attack.
Armed with that information, investigators were able to track Stanga to his home later that day, where they said they found the van had been freshly painted in an attempt to disguise the vehicle.
Investigators also said they obtained pictures from a convenience store that showed Stanga wearing the same clothes that the attempted kidnapper had been wearing in the surveillance footage and said he had blue slime “over his own arms” that matched the slime the young girl had been playing with when she was attacked.
He was arrested Tuesday without incident.
“I am very proud of the efforts of the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office but I cannot help to think that this could have ended very differently,” Simmons said. “Had this 11-year-old victim not thought to fight and to fight and to just never give up, then this could have ended terribly.”
Simmons said the suspect had an “extensive criminal history” that included sexual offenses with a child.
The young girl told authorities that the same man had approached her about two weeks ago and “made her feel uncomfortable,” Simmons said.
The 11-year-old told her parents, teachers and a principal about the encounter, but Simmons said he did not believe law enforcement had been called at the time.
“This man needs to be off the streets,” Simmons said.
The girl suffered some scratches and is still dealing with the emotional trauma of the experience, but is expected to be okay.
“My message to her is that she’s my hero,” Simmons said. “My message is that she did not give up, she did the right thing, she fought and she fought and she fought and she never gave up.”
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