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Girl Reported Odd Encounter. Weeks Later, Something Worse

11-year-old being hailed for fighting off attempted bus-stop kidnapping
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted May 19, 2021 8:17 AM CDT

(Newser) – That she escaped was incredible. That it was caught on video, ditto. An 11-year-old Florida girl is called a "hero" by law enforcement who say she fought off an attempted kidnapper while waiting for the bus on Tuesday morning. She was waiting at her Pensacola bus stop around 7am when surveillance video shows a white Dodge Journey pull up some distance from her. A man exits the car, possibly armed with a knife, and starts moving toward her; she grabs her backpack and starts to run away from him, but he catches up to her. She fights back and the man trips, releases her, and runs back to the car. In an evening press conference, Escambia County Sheriff Chip Simmons said suspect Jared Paul Stanga, whose rap sheet includes sex offenses against children, had been arrested.

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Simmons says the girl was playing with blue slime while waiting for the bus, and that Stagna, 30, was later captured on stores' surveillance video with blue slime on his arms, reports the Pensacola News Journal. The Washington Post reports Stanga had allegedly stopped to talk to the girl in Spanish about two weeks prior. She walked away from him and reported the encounter to her mom, teachers, and principal. The girl’s mother then went with her to the bus stop daily. Tuesday was the first day the child went alone. "We believe that this person has either been watching her specifically or was walking around, looking for an opportunity. Either way, it’s bad," Simmons said Tuesday morning. Simmons later said, "I cannot help to think that this could have ended very different had this 11-year-old victim not thought to fight, and to fight, and to just never give up. This could have ended terribly." (Read more child kidnapping stories.)

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