JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It took the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office only about four hours Wednesday evening to clear the man in question in a reported attempted abduction of any wrongdoing.
Police said the case was no longer being investigated as a possible attempted abduction, and they were confident the man who in the car they pulled over did not have bad intentions.
A teen told his parents, who then called police, that he saw the man trying to lure a young boy with a stuffed animal. Police said that was not what happened.
They said the man collects stuffed animals. The man told Channel 4 on Thursday he enjoys playing the crane machines at restaurants and winning stuffed animals. He also said he has given them to kids before, but always with their parents around.
Neighbors say they were surprised to learn the man police initially pulled over was someone they had known for years.
"It's sad that an innocent act like that causes alarm, but you can't be too careful," neighbor Leigh Carter said.
Multiple neighbors described the man as very kind, usually sitting out in his garage just enjoying the weather. They said police did a great job of searching the area quickly and trying to figure out what happened.
Carter said she wasn't surprised initial reports turned out to be false.
"I've seen him in the neighborhood, never any cause for alarm or anything like that," Carter said. "It's a pretty calm neighborhood. There's a lot of kids walking up and down all the time and usually together."
Even though the initial report of a possible abduction turned out to not be true, Channel 4 crime analyst Ken Jefferson said JSO did a great job of quickly locating the car that the 14-year-old described from what he saw. He also said the boy did the right thing alerting his parents right away.
"You want to get the police involved as quick as possible because time is not working for you, it's working against you," Jefferson said. "The quicker you can get the police involved, the quicker they can get boots on the ground."
The family of the man who was questioned by police complimented JSO for the job that they did investigating this case, but they want people to know, just as police said, the man was never doing anything illegal or with bad intent.