What police initially thought was an attempted child abduction is turning out to be more of a misunderstanding.
Last week, a mother told Tonto Apache Police that a man had tried to pick up her 8-year-old son after he got off the school bus.
The third-grader was reportedly walking to tutoring at the Tonto Apache Gym, after getting dropped off near a set of mailboxes on the Tonto Apache Reservation July 30, when a man driving a pickup approached.
The boy told his mother he thought the man wanted him to get in the vehicle. Scared, he ran to the gym and told his tutor.
Casino surveillance video helped police quickly track down the man, said Tonto Apache Tribe Police Chief Carlos Garcia.
When police questioned him, he said he had only yelled at the boy to cross the street and had never asked him to get in the truck.
“At this point, it looks like it could be just a big misunderstanding,” Garcia said.
With school just back in session, however, authorities say the tale is a good reminder to parents to talk to their children.
The event spurred a tribal community meeting where some 60 parents and students got information on stranger danger.
Officers are also now monitoring bus pickups and drop offs.
The boy’s mother said although she had talked to her son about stranger danger, “you don’t know if they will forget.”
A half a dozen other kids reportedly got off at the bus stop, but scattered in various directions.
The boy told his mother he thought the man stopped and tried to get him to get into the truck.
The suspect maintains he only stopped because the boy was near a crosswalk and he did not know if he was going to cross.
Payson Police Chief Don Engler said it is good idea to set up a list of trusted adults that can pick up the child. “The important thing is talking to the kid ahead of time,” Engler said. “It is unfortunate that in today’s society that we need to talk to our children at a young age to ensure that they know what to do if something happens that frightens them, that they think about getting to a safe location and it is critical that they make a report to someone that can help them.”
The boy’s mother says she hopes parents will take the time to talk their kids.