Trio of Merced children report attempted abduction

Merced police are on the lookout after three students at Ada Givens Elementary reported a possible attempted abduction Tuesday.

The students, two girls and a boy between the ages of 6 and 10, reported the incident to school officials after they were approached by a white male in his 50s near the school while they were walking home, according to Lt. Bimley West.

West said the man, driving a white van with tinted windows, told one of the students that he had been sent over by one of their fathers to pick them up. West said the man offered candy to each of the students, telling them that "they did not have to be afraid" of him. He then tried to coax the three children to enter his vehicle, but they refused, West said.

The students became suspicious, West said, and ran back to the school and told the principal.

Police responded to the scene shortly after 2:30 p.m. and searched the area and other local schools, West said. An adult witness also reported seeing the same van in the vicinity of where the incident took place, West said.

West acknowledged that the description of the suspect is sketchy because the children gave varying accounts. Still, West said police are warning parents and children to be wary of anyone who acts suspiciously and to try to get the license plate number and description of any suspicious vehicles. "We're still on the lookout with the limited information that we have, as far as the suspect's description," West said.

Connie Hadley, the school's principal, said phone messages about the incident were sent to parents Tuesday in English, Hmong and Spanish. The school sent letters to parents on Wednesday.

Hadley said the school will continue with its "Stranger-Danger" program, done in conjunction with Merced police to warn kids about what safety measures to take when approached by strangers.

"Something like this raises the awareness of everybody, and I think we become extremely cautious at all times," Hadley said. "We can never be too careful."

Police are asking anyone with information about the incident to call Sgt. Scott Skinner at (209) 385-4702 or the department's anonymous tip-line at (209) 385-4725.