FORDHAM — A brave 8-year-old girl fought off a would-be kidnapper who twice tried to grab her as she and her sisters walked toward their Bronx elementary school early Thursday morning, police sources and Department of Education officials said.
The girl, whose name was not released, was walking with her 12-year-old sister and 8-year-old half sister toward P.S. 33 Timothy Dwight at 2424 Jerome Ave., shortly before 8 a.m. when a man rolled up beside them in his car and told the 8-year-old to get in, police said.
The girls ignored him and continued on their way to school, making it all the way to the stairs at the entrance when the man struck again, sources said.
He hopped out of his vehicle, rushed at the trio, and grabbed the 8-year-old girl's arm, sources and a DOE spokeswoman said.
"Come with me," the man demanded, sources said.
The little girl shouted "No!" and yanked her arm away, sources said.
The victim and her sisters then raced up the entrance stairs and into the school, where they notified the principal, officials said.
The man, meanwhile, rushed back to his vehicle and sped off, sources said. Police checked surveillance footage of the route to school and spotted a car that may belong to the would-be kidnapper, sources said.
Police described the alleged would-be kidnapper as a 20-to-30-year-old man, 5-foot-10, last seen wearing a black jacket, black shoes, brown hat and a hooded sweatshirt.
The sisters escaped unharmed, though the victim's friend said the girl "had tears on her face" when she walked into class late Thursday morning.
The principal called both the NYPD and the girl's parents, the spokeswoman said. The DOE referred further questions to the police.
The school has 1,064 students between pre-kindergarten and fifth grade. A woman who answered the phone at the school declined to comment.
Lynette Santos, the school's principal, wrote a letter to parents Thursday afternoon advising them to take precautions, "as a student was nearly abducted in front of our school today."
"We strongly urge you to have your child travel in a group whenever possible," Santos wrote. "We urge you to tell your children to stay on populated routes and streets and not to use a shortcut through vacant lots or any other unpopulated areas."
Santos also warned parents not to allow their kids to use headphones, iPods or other electronics while walking to school.
"This can be a threat to their safety as children may not hear what is going on in their surrounding environment. Please have a conversation with your child/ren and let them know that they should not talk to strangers."
The encounter left parents frightened and many flocked to the school to pick their children up early.
"I feel crazy," said Perlda Sanchez, who has a daughter in first grade. "It's scary."
Parents outside P.S. 33 Thursday afternoon said both the school and parents should do a better job of keeping kids safe.
"They need more security. You need two security guards: one on the inside at the desk and one outside," said Louis Dejesus, who heard about the incident and rushed to the school to pick up his niece in the second grade.
"I'm scared for my child," the 38-year-old said.
Many parents said they were upset that the school had not notified them about Thursday morning's attempted abduction and that they had to learn about it from the news instead.
"They're supposed to call me on an incident like this," said Valerie Mendoza, 28, whose 9-year-old daughter is friends with the victim. "When something happens, they're supposed to contact us."
Nakia Matthews, whose 4-year-old daughter will start at P.S. 33 come fall, said she was "scared for my child."
"When you bring your child to school, escort them to the front of the school," she said. "Next time, [the suspect] might succeed."
Anyone with information about this incident can call the NYPD's Crime Stoppers Hotline at 800-577-TIPS. You can also submit tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers Website at www.nypdcrimestoppers.com or texting tips to 274637(CRIMES), then entering TIP577.