Police: 2 men in SUV approach 9-year-old boy in Ortega, offer him candy

JSO releases sketch of passenger, surveillance of SUV sought

By Erik Avanier - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - There's a neighborhood crime alert in the Ortega neighborhood, where Jacksonville police said they are looking for two men who approached a 9-year-old boy and tried to offer him candy. 

The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office said it happened about 3:45 p.m. Tuesday on Robert D. Gordon Road -- just blocks from Roosevelt Boulevard on the city's Westside.

The boy told police that he was riding his bicycle when an SUV drove up. The child said the passenger rolled down his window, stuck his arm out and then offered him candy.

That's when the boy said he turned his bike around and rode off in the opposite direction -- north on Apache Avenue. 

Neither of the men got out of the vehicle and the SUV continued toward Roosevelt Boulevard, police said. 

Neighbor Scott Hudmon's security camera captured part of the incident. The surveillance video shows the SUV traveling behind the boy riding his bike.

In the footage, both the child and the SUV move out of the video frame for a seconds, and then all of a sudden, the boy can been seen pedaling fast away from the SUV.

"It's discouraging in our neighborhood that something like that can occur," Hudmon said. "You don't think that's going to happen in your neighborhood and there's so many kids. I hope they can find him."

So do other parents who live in the quiet neighborhood. Ryan Chandler, a father of three, said this week's incident result in him having a serious conversation with his children.

"It's very concerning," Chandler said. "You try to teach your children the right way to react in a situation like that, but you never know what's going to happen until it actually does."

Police on Friday released a sketch of the passenger and surveillance images of the vehicle -- which is described as an early 2000s silver Ford SUV, possibly an Explorer or Expedition, with damage to the right-rear side and gray duct tape on the front passenger headlight.

Police said the same vehicle was captured on video traveling north on Algonquin Avenue about 7:30 a.m. Wednesday. 

The boy's father told News4Jax on Friday that he was in the room as his son described to police sketch artists what the passenger looked like.

"It's been a tough week, but we're doing fine," the father said off-camera. 

News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith said the child handled the situation perfectly. 

“The child did exactly the right thing -- not to get too close to them and get away as quickly as possible. He was also able to get a physical description and a car description as much as he could," Smith said. "But the most important children need to do is get away.”

It's unclear how long the SUV had been following the child or what the occupants' intentions were. 

“Since he was by himself on a bicycle, they may have thought that they could have grabbed the child possibly abduct him," Smith said.

It also appears the SUV was spotted during times when children would either be going to or coming from school. Smith said "there's a strong possibility" Tuesday's incident could have been a calculated effort to go after a child. 

There are three nearby schools, the closest one about a mile from where the child was approached.

Anyone who has any information about the whereabouts or identities of the two men in the SUV is asked to call the Sheriff's Office at 904-630-0500 or email JSOCrimeTips@jaxsheriff.org. To remain anonymous and receive a possible reward of up to $3,000, contact Crime Stoppers at 1-866-845-TIPS.

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