AUSTIN (KXAN) — An Austin ISD high school student was walking home from school Monday evening when a man approached the student and forced her into a vehicle. People in the area intervened and came to the aid of the student, who was unharmed.
Police are investigating the incident as an attempted kidnapping, saying it took place in the 8200 block of Renton Drive at 5 p.m. Austin police located the suspect, identified Wednesday as Philip Gamez, 30, and arrested him a few hours later.
Neighbors in the area say they got a notification about the crime through an app. “Suspect was a large Caucasian, burly man, approximately 6 foot tall with red hair, driving a silver Chevy Tahoe, slowed down and attempted to pull a girl in his car when one of the neighbors realized what was going on and jumped in the passenger side of the vehicle,” Hazel Anderson, a neighbor, read from the notification.
One neighbor says he remembers seeing the Tahoe just before police arrived. “I saw the silver Tahoe parked down the street, my brother lives down the street and he was parked directly across the street from where my brother lives,” Bart Williamson said. “It was pretty frightening.”
The principal of Burnet Middle School, which is about two blocks away from the location of the incident, sent a letter home to parents saying police will “maintain increased patrols in the area.”
Principal David Dean gave the following safety recommendations and tips to students:
- Encourage students to report any unusual occurrences to you. When they are visiting or playing with friends, make sure an adult knows where they are and have students carry a cell phone in case of an emergency, if age-appropriate.
- Establish a password known only to immediate family. Children should be told not to go with an unfamiliar person unless the person knows the password.
- If they are approached by strangers, students should take several steps backward, stay out of arm’s reach and run to a safe area. If they are confronted, they should be taught to scream. Many times children forget to scream.
- Identify the location of safe homes or buildings in case a student needs to run to them. Identify which neighbors are available to help when parents or guardians are not at home.
- Advise students to avoid alleys and empty lots, houses or garages. Students should use direct routes between school and home when walking or biking.