WINTER HAVEN, Fla. — Winter Haven Police are searching for a man they say tried to lure a teenage girl into his van Thursday afternoon.
- Police have increased patrols around schools
- Have information? Call Winter Haven Police at 863-401-2256
- More Polk County stories
The incident occurred across from Polk State College at the Lake Elbert Boat Ramp. The girl was reportedly walking home from school.
Police said an abduction might have occurred had two women not been there and intervened.
The two women, Jeanette Viegas and Jodi Foster, said the man made small talk with them and tried to get them to go into his van. When they declined, they said he tried to pick up the 15-year-old girl.
“I heard him ask her did she want a ride,” recalled Jeanette Viegas.
The girl kept walking. She said the man then blocked her path.
“That’s when I started screaming for her, 'don’t get in the van, don’t get in that van, don’t go near the van," Viegas explained. "That’s when [Foster] started calling 911.”
They said the man took off at that point. They called the incident "horrifying."
“It’s very scary, because I have a 13-year-old daughter and a ten-year-old son,” said Foster.
“At that moment that was my child and that’s all I could think about,” said Viegas.
Viegas said the van was an older model, white with a stripe and tinted windows. She said the hood was damaged and didn’t latch.
Both women are hopeful police catch the man and soon.
“I didn’t sleep a whole lot last night and how can you sleep if you know you have a predator going around the neighborhood and the schools preying on children and adults?” Viegas asked.
The women also want parents to advise their children to refrain from wearing headphones while walking to and from school. They believe the teen had headphones on when the man initially approached her.
One of the witnesses worked with a composite specialist to create an image of the man in the van. The image is below.
Winter Haven Police said they’ve increased patrols around schools. If you have any information on this incident, call 863-401-2256.