Witness: Man tried to lure 15-year-old girl into van

Polk County

POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Witnesses say a man tried to lure a teenage girl into his van in Winter Haven.

Police are now looking for leads.

“I didn’t sleep last night. Every time I closed my eyes I kept seeing his face,” said Jodi Foster, who witnessed the incident.

It happened Thursday afternoon while the girl was walking home from school along Lake Elfred near 10th Street Northeast, according to police.

The man initially tried to get women into his van and then approached a 15-year old girl.

Foster said that’s when she heard a woman scream.

“Baby girl, don’t you go in that car. Baby girl you don’t go with him,’’ she heard a woman scream. “I’m like ‘what?’ I jumped up real quick. I swiped over, I hit 911. She starts writing down a van number. I’m watching where the van’s going.”

She took down the description, called 911 and then went live on Facebook, warning parents to remind their kids not to talk to strangers.

The suspect is described as a black male in his 50’s or 60’s.

Sketch of possible suspect Courtesy: Winter Haven Police Department

He was driving an older white van with tinted windows and the hood was ajar.

A possible Florida tag number of X4156C was obtained, however, it did not match the vehicle, according to police.

“We applaud the quick actions of the witnesses in this case,” said Chief
Charlie Bird in a statement. “Thankfully they were able to spook this guy and the young lady was safe.”

Foster provided a description to a sketch artist Friday afternoon and has made contact with the girl’s family.

“I think shock was it because she was kind of dazed. When we finally got her to come across the street – the one thing I will tell any child ‘take your earbuds out. Don’t have both earbuds in,” she said.

Winter Haven police increased patrols Friday as a precaution.

Anyone with any information about this incident or a possible identity of the driver is asked to call Detective Shaquille Haynes at 863-401-2256.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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