Fresno police do not believe the girls who reported a possible child abduction on Tuesday intended to mislead investigators and aren’t pursuing consequences against them.
Lt. Mark Hudson said on Wednesday that whatever happened near the Via Montana shopping center in northeast Fresno likely was misinterpreted or exaggerated by the two teenagers.
“We have no information to lead us to believe these minors intended to mislead police,” he said.
A report of a young girl flailing her arms and legs as a man snatched her off the street sent Fresno law enforcement into frantic search for information or reports of a missing child. About 60 Fresno police officers and 15 to 20 FBI personnel scoured the area near the intersection of Shepherd and Cedar avenues for six hours, with help from sniffing police dogs and a helicopter.
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By 9 p.m. Police Chief Jerry Dyer called off the search, saying there was no evidence a crime happened.
Police initially responded around 3 p.m. to a report from a woman driving in a van on Shepherd Avenue with the two teenagers. The teens, ages 14 and 17, said they saw a man grab a girl between 8 and 10 years of age from behind and take her into nearby Via Montana shopping center as she flailed her arms, trying to get away.
The girl, the witnesses said, was white and wearing a pink T-shirt, purple sweater and royal blue pants. She had medium length brown hair. The witnesses told police the suspect was black, with a chubby build and about 5-foot-10 and wore a black zipped hoodie.
A purple scooter – a three-wheeled skateboard type with Disney characters painted on it – was found at the scene, which at a 5:25 p.m. news conference that Dyer called “suspicious.”
One theory police explored was a child was drawn to the discarded scooter and a parent or guardian figure simply shooed them away, Hudson said.
Police checked absences at Clovis Unified, checked in with registered sex offenders and found the woman who discarded the scooter over the weekend.
“We have to do all we can do to ensure that we got to the point where we got,” Hudson said, “which was that we didn’t feel a child abduction occurred. That does take a lot of resources – for the search and expertise from other agencies. … It was the response that was needed for the report that was being made.”