HOUSTON— The Houston Police Department is investigating after a 6-year-old girl said a man tried to abduct her during a field trip at the Houston Zoo.
“It happens this fast,” Chief Art Acevedo said snapping his fingers. “When you’re in public spaces with your child or with young children you really have to pay attention.”
Cops said the near-abduction was not reported until noon on Thursday, but the alleged incident happened on Wednesday.
According to police, the girl was with a group of five other Humble ISD students and a chaperon. The girl told police that she fell behind while walking with her group and a man grabbed her, covered her mouth. “You are going to come with me,” he allegedly told her.
It is unknown how the girl managed to get away and reunite with the group.
“Fortunately, the young victim was able to get away and is safe,” Acevedo said.
The chaperone of the group said that she was not aware of the incident, but does admit to being distracted for 30 seconds when she went to get another student who ran from the group. The man is described as being 5 feet 8 inches tall and 155 pounds.
HPD detectives are combing through the zoo’s extensive surveillance footage hoping to find clues that might lead to the suspect.
“There is a surveillance video that we’ve reviewed that showed a man that didn’t have a child, that was not part of this group, that was pretty much shadowing, it appears to us was shadowing the group of children,” Chief Acevedo said.
Parents visiting the zoo are on guard now, too.
“Stories like this make you just— remind you to be cautious,” mother of two Allison Rathan said.
“I mean, you just kind of lose track of time at the zoo and sometimes you’re just enjoying the scenery,” mom Adrienne Ramsey said. “And you definitely should be paying more attention to where your kids are.”
Atascocita Springs Elementary School Principal Tiffany Caseltine released a statement that read in part:
“On Wednesday after school, a student told her parents at home that she became separated from her group during the first grade field trip to the Zoo and that a stranger grabbed her arm during that time. Her parents contacted the Houston Zoo and the child’s teacher on Wednesday evening.
Nothing is more important than the protection of children. The Zoo and our school launched an immediate investigation, bringing in City of Houston Police and Humble ISD Police.
The investigation has involved checking surveillance video and taking witness statements. At this time, we have not found evidence that the child was separated from her group nor interacted with a stranger. The chaperone states that the child was always with her. However, Humble ISD is continuing to investigate the incident and assisting our law enforcement partners.
We appreciate the parents proactively notifying us and the Zoo. We take every safety concern very seriously.”
Anyone with information is asked to contact please contact 311 or 713-837-0311.