The Palatka Police Department has reported two possible attempted abduction incidents, one Friday and one Sunday. Police said the two incidents do not appear to be related.
On Friday, a Palatka High School student was walking home from school on St. Johns Avenue near Moseley Avenue when a bald black man driving a gold van stopped and asked if she needed a ride, police said.
They said the 14-year-old girl told him no, and the driver got out of the van and approached her on foot. Police said the student ran away to a nearby business and called for help.
On Sunday, several children and their mother were walking to church in the 1400 block of Bronson Street when they were approached by a white man in his 50s with grey hair, a mustache and a beard, driving a maroon four-door vehicle, police said.
They said the man asked if the children needed a ride. Police said the mother told the man no, and the driver persisted, asking the mother if the children needed a ride and telling the mother he "had a permit." The mother, Felicia Love, reported the incident to police.
"'I'm trying to pick y'all up,' is what he said," Love said. "And I said, 'Hey, don't talk to my daughters, talk to me, because they're 11 years old. I'm standing right here. You go past me. What do you need? Directions?' And he said, 'No, I'm trying to pick them up. I have a permit. I'm trying to pick them up.'"
"They were terrified, and quite naturally, because you know, you get a man pulling up to you talking about he's trying to pick you up, but he don't want your mommy to come, he just wants to pick you up," Love said. "I guess he thought I was too slow to catch up with them."
Based on descriptions of the attempted abductors and vehicles, police said the two incidents are unrelated.
"It's pretty unusual for this area," said David Parsons, Palatka police crime analyst. "We normally have about four a year, maybe. That's usually a pretty high year. So two back-to-back, that's a pretty strange incident."
Love said her children are never alone and she's really thankful they weren't this time. The worried mother is warning others to keep an eye out.
"Summer's coming along and they're going to be out of school, and you got to watch your children," Love said.
Love and her neighbors said they've seen the man circling the neighborhood before. In fact, one woman said she saw him again Wednesday.
Police said they're trying to identify each of the men. Pedestrians are reminded to walk in groups whenever possible and not to get into a stranger's vehicle. People should report any suspicious activity to the Police Department at 386-329-0115 or 386-329-0800. The Palatka Police Department tip line number is 386-329-0170.