CHICAGO — An 11-year-old girl walking home from school was able to escape a masked kidnapper Monday afternoon in Woodlawn, but she passed along chilling news to investigators, police said.
Already in the man's white, full-sized van was a screaming young girl bound in duct tape, she told police.
The 11-year-old was in the 1000 block of East 63rd Street around 3:35 p.m. Monday when a man approached her from behind and attempted to throw her into the back of the van, which had painted windows, police said.
During the struggle, the girl spotted a young black girl about 12 years old in the van screaming for help with her hands and legs duct-taped, police said.
The 11-year-old girl was able to escape and notified police.
She described the man who tried to kidnap her as a black man standing about 5-foot-11, wearing a black ski mask, a long-sleeved black shirt and black pants. He was believed to be an older man with gray hair on his wrists, police said.
Officer Ron Gaines, a Chicago Police Department spokesman, said police were not sure if the description of the girl in the back of the van matched anyone who had been reported missing. He said detectives were in the neighborhood investigating the report Tuesday morning.
Residents and workers in the neighborhood said they were worried about the incident.
Ta'kia Hinton, 23, said the incident is particularly concerning because 63rd Street is busy and often used by residents in the area, including her 13-year-old sister.
Her sister "walks up and down this street to get to the store, so that's concerning. Now every time she goes anywhere I have to go with her or my mom," Hinton said.
"It doesn't matter what time of day it is. It's scary. It doesn't have to be a young girl. It could be me," she said.
The area, which includes Hyde Park Day School, 6254 S. Ellis Ave., is not a high-crime area but is bordered by problem areas three blocks in each direction, she said.
The school has multiple cameras attached to emergency call boxes in front of the building. Detectives are collecting video footage from the area as part of the investigation, police said.
Lawrence Moffit, who has worked in the area for the last eight years, said the stretch of 63rd where the girl was approached is safer then other spots on the street, like where it intersects Cottage Grove Avenue. He said he is frequently solicited to buy drugs or cartons of cigarettes when he goes to work, he said.
"When it's close to 63rd and Cottage Grove, there's no telling what could happen," Moffit said.
Still, he said the area has been a lot better since the school was built.
"People around here are very concerned about this. It's close to home," he said.
Willie Ray Jr., who's running for alderman of the 12th Ward, expressed concerned.
"Basically any neighborhood with people of good conscience should treat this with dismay. It's not in our nature to have our kids abused; they're our future, and we need to protect them any way we can," he said. "It's just unbelievable for this to happen to our kids."
He said that the incident would not keep him from walking the streets where he lives with any of his three grandkids.
"I'm still going to walk down my street. We're Americans living in America — not Iraq, Afghanistan or Africa," Ray said. It should make us more vigilant and more alert, and if anything's out of the norm to just call 911."
Ald. Willie Cochran (20th) said he had only been given preliminary details on the incident from police and had not spoken to the victim.
Anyone with information is asked to call detectives at 312-747-8380.
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