Possible kidnapping attempt rocks parents
By LPR Staff
A disaster was averted and local parents galvanized this week when an area child came face-to-face with “stranger danger.”
According to reports from the Lockhart Police Department, a 9-year-old girl walking home from school on Thursday afternoon was beckoned by a Hispanic couple in a shiny, silver four-door sedan, asking for her he
lp. The child said the couple asked her to “help them find someone.”
The frightened youngster did not approach the car, and instead ran home and told her parents, who called the Lockhart Police Department, who sent an officer to make a report of the incident. The call was logged at 3:25 p.m. on Thursday, April 29.
The aftermath of the incident shook some local parents to their core, and prompted Lockhart Chief of Police Mike Lummus to make an apologetic statement to the community during the Lockhart City Council meeting on Tuesday.
“There are some things that we did right, and some things that went off track,” he said. “In other situations like this – they don’t happen often but they have happened – we handled it perfectly. In this case, there were some breakdowns, and since it happened on my watch, I take responsibility for that.”
Lummus said the patrol officer who took the report notified his superior, who ordered him to distribute a mass email to the police department about the incident. Due to an error in the police department’s system, Lummus said the report went to the other patrol officers, but was not escalated up the chain of command.
“The good thing was at shift change, the officers coming on knew about it,” he said. “The bad thing is that I didn’t know about it until nearly 1 p.m. on Monday.”
When Lummus learned of the incident, he ordered increased patrols around Lockhart’s schools. He said every available officer, himself included, were involved in the increased patrols in the school zones. However, he admitted he was so concerned with the increased patrolling that he failed to notify the Lockhart Independent School District in a timely manner that the incident had occurred.
It was a breakdown in communication that he promised the community will not happen again.
“We’ve already taken some steps, internally, to make sure that this doesn’t happen again,” he said.
Those steps, he said, include a directive that he be personally notified immediately in the event of another such incident involving the safety of a local child.
LISD Superintendent Jose Parra said on Tuesday that safety procedures have been reviewed, and will continue to be reviewed, with those children that walk to and from school each day, with a focus on reminding the children of “stranger danger.”
In a letter distributed to the parents and guardians of children attending the district’s elementary schools on Wednesday, Parra encouraged parent cooperation to remind their children to avoid strangers.
He said the youngster in question had made a “wise decision” in running away and notifying her parents.
However, because the incident occurred off campus, Parra said all inquiries should be referred to the Lockhart Police Department.
In part because of the limited availability of information on the incident, a search for the individuals who approached the child came up empty. Therefore, the potential suspects have not been located, and the Lockhart Police Department said it was unclear as to the couple’s true motives or intentions.
Still, the situation ignited heated discussion not only about the communication breakdown, in that LISD parents were not notified of the incident by official sources until Tuesday, but also as to methods to keep the situation from repeating itself.
Anyone with information about the incident is urged to call the Lockhart Police Department at (512) 398-4401. Parents dropping off or picking up their children are also encouraged to be vigilant, and report any activity that seems suspicious to the authorities immediately.