After further investigation, the Norwalk Police Department has resolved the matter involving what was reported as a possible attempted abduction of an 10-year-old Norwalk girl.
“I do not believe this happened as originally reported and I certainly don’t believe there was any attempt at an abduction,” Capt. James Fulton said.
‘It absolutely did not happen that way’
The girl’s mother, Leila Earl, has said her daughter told her a black van pulled up toward the sidewalk by Main Street School. She said it stayed there for about eight to 10 minutes before a man in the passenger seat waved her daughter over and told her “come on, get it.”
Fulton, however, said according to video footage from the school and even the young girl’s account of the situation, that wasn’t the case.
“This absolutely did not happen that way,” he said.
“I reviewed the video. In that time period, there were only two black vans that go by. In one, there was only a female in the vehicle and (the girl) was no where near it at the time. The other black van goes by slowly and (the girl) walks over there to that side of the school and she was out of view of the camera for 16 to 18 seconds. That’s it. There were other people around. And when she walked back (in view of the camera), she did not appear to be afraid or anything like that on the video. She walked normally back to the school,” Fulton added.
Police showed the video to Earl and her family, including the young girl involved. Fulton said Earl became angry “because it’s not how they said it happened.”
Earl contacted the Reflector after office hours Tuesday saying “a lot more” had developed in the case since she talked to the police and school a few times since she called the paper the week before. She, however, couldn’t be reached for further comment Wednesday before press time.
About two hours after the initial incident, Earl contacted police to say she saw the same van across from her house at a CashLand, with a couple who matched the description from her daughter. She requested police come and investigate.
‘Eliminated as a suspect’
Despite the mother saying she and her daughter firmly believed the couple in the van were the same from the black van at the school, Fulton said police determined it was “an impossibility.”
“He was absolutely eliminated as a suspect,” Fulton said, referring to the man in the van. “According to (Earl), we didn’t identify them well. That is false. We did ID them and Sgt. (Jim) Montana talked to them for 10 minutes and found out he had just gotten off of work.”
Police confirmed this with the man’s place of employment and by taking copies of his time card, which showed he was at work until 4:30 p.m. That meant he couldn’t have been at the school at the time of the incident.
“We showed (the girl) a photo lineup ... and she was not able to identify him,” Fulton said.
“When I talked to her, she told us she did not hear anyone say anything. She said she saw his mouth moving. She said she thought he may have said something like, ‘come here’ or ‘get in,’ but she didn’t actually hear anything and she even said she wasn’t sure if he was waving at her or someone else.
“There is nothing that indicates this was an attempted abduction. She saw the man’s mouth moving and maybe surmised that’s what he might have said,” Fulton added. “She may have been scared and that may have affected what she thought happened, but I don’t for a moment think this was an attempted abduction.”
Fulton said he also wanted to make sure parents knew the school and Principal Dan Bauman handled the situation to the best of their ability.
“(Earl) did go to the school after the incident, but she didn’t give Mr. Bauman any details at all,” he said.
“(The student) said there was a black van, but she wasn’t sure if he was waving at her or not and couldn’t provide any details. Leila said she was upset because there was no One Call made, but you can’t be making a One Call when there’s no details,” Fulton added. “There was nothing Mr. Bauman could have reasonably done.”
Norwalk City Schools Superintendent George Fisk, when asked about the situation Wednesday morning, said since “the facts are evolving, I’m not at liberty to talk about it.”
When the incident happened, Fisk said he asked the principals in each building to reinforce with staff members the need to “remain vigilant with what’s going on around their buildings.”
Committed to children’s safety
Fulton said the police have finished their investigation.
“As far as I’m concerned this case is closed,” he said.
Officers were thorough in their investigation, Fulton added, taking the safety of the community and especially the children “very seriously” — even continuing with early-morning and after-school patrolling and sending officers for walk-throughs in the school buildings.
“Certainly if there’s any question in the safety of the children, we’re going to be all over that,” Fulton said. “We’re committed to the safety of the children.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Reflector staff writer Cary Ashby contributed to this story.