PORTAGE PARK — The mother of a 9-year-old Northwest Side boy who told police he was kidnapped and assaulted while on the way home from Portage Park Elementary School blasted Chicago police Tuesday for casting doubts on his story.
The mother, who did not want to be identified for fear her son could be targeted again by a man the boy said forced him into the back of a van and struck him, said she was furious that police detectives are skeptical her son’s story is true.
“They should not be writing him off as a little kid liar, because he’s not,” the mother said in an interview with DNAinfo.com Chicago Tuesday afternoon. “They should be focused on rooting out this evil. I really wish they would focus on finding the man who did this.”
Police issued an alert Monday evening after the boy was discovered in an alley in the 4100 block of north Dickinson Avenue without any shoes on. The alert warned the community that he had been kidnapped and assaulted.
But Tuesday morning, multiple police sources cast doubt on the boy's story, saying there were "inconsistencies" in what he told police.
The "inconsistencies" had to do with the boy's report of what happened and his injuries, one law enforcement source said.
Chicago police spokesman Adam Collins, however, said the department was continuing to investigate the incident “thoroughly.”
The 9-year-old, who was treated and released from Our Lady of the Resurrection Medical Center, is very scared and shaken, and clearly traumatized by the events of Monday afternoon, his mother said.
He has a concussion and is sore along one side of his body, consistent with being thrown out of a van and onto a hard concrete surface, she said.
She acknowledged there are some inconsistencies in the story, but said they are due to the trauma he suffered. The boy is an honor-roll and straight-A student and would not completely invent such a story, his mother said.
“The main core of his story has not changed,” she said.
The boy, who lives less than a block and a half from Portage Park Elementary School, was in the gangway alongside his house in the 5200 block of West Berteau Avenue when a short Hispanic man came up from behind him, put his hand over his face and forced him into the back of a van, his mother said.
The man piled boxes on top of the boy, who began screaming and banging on the windows of the van, the boy told police. The boy said the man hit him — either with a baseball bat or with his fist. The next thing the boy remembers is waking up in an alley near some garbage cans.
The boy typically walks home alone from Portage Park Elementary School at 5330 W. Berteau Ave. and arrives home every afternoon by 3:38 p.m., and his mother said she began to worry when he was not home by 3:45 p.m.
“I had the worst pain in my stomach,” the mother said.
She immediately drove to the school to look for her son and was speaking with an officer when she heard over the officer's radio that a barefoot boy was discovered unconscious or sleeping in the alley. It turned out to be her son.
The boy was not otherwise harmed, his mother said. His shoes and backpack were discovered nearby, she added.
“He was very out of it and very scared,” his mother said. “He kept telling me he thought he was never going to see me again.
“The police kept telling me that that’s not the way kidnappings usually happen, and that these guys don’t let the kids go until they’ve done what they wanted to do,” the mother said. “I told police to stop focusing on what usually happens. Thank God I got my son back.”
The mother begged anyone who may have been in the area to contact the police.
“Someone must have seen something,” she said. “Something definitely happened."
Police officers reviewed video footage captured by surveillance cameras outside Savoy Liquors, 4138 N. Milwaukee Ave., in the Six Corners shopping district, a store employee said Monday evening.
But a store representative Tuesday morning said the footage did not show a dark van traveling through the alley in the 4100 block of North Dickinson Avenue where the boy was found.
The boy's mother said police told her the camera with the best view of where her son was found was not working.
Ald. Tim Cullerton (38th) said he had requested that a squad car be stationed outside Portage Park Elementary School after school Tuesday.
School officials have been inundated with calls from parents concerned about the incident, Cullerton said.
Tuesday morning, cars lined Berteau and parents and children filled the sidewalk as students made their way to the school for class.
News of any inconsistencies had not reached parents, and many said they were shocked to hear kidnapping could happen when and where it did.
"It's such a busy street from here to Milwaukee," said Mary MacFadyen, who stood on Berteau by the school. "You can come by there at 4:30, there's still groups of people. ... That's why it's just nuts that someone would be ballsy enough to do something like that."
MacFadyen, a mother of four Portage Park students, said she wanted to see more of a police presence around the school and throughout the neighborhood in general.
Michelle Howard, another parent at the school, said she wanted awareness training for both parents and students so that children will be better prepared for situations involving strangers.
Grizelda Sanchez, who has a 6-year-old boy at the school, said Tuesday the news rattled parents at the school.
"We're all scared," she said.
Sanchez said she heard the news from a student who posted a photo of the police alert on Instagram. She said she was most upset school officials did not notify parents.
"I was mad because I went to the website — the school website — and they had no information about it," Sanchez said.
Howard agreed that school officials should have contacted parents.
"If something happens in your neighborhood, they should make you aware of it," she said. "Whether it's truth or not, you should be made aware of it."