11-year-old girl fights off would-be kidnapper in Florida; suspect arrested, identified

ESCAMBIA COUNTY, Fla. — Authorities in Florida are investigating after a man armed with a knife tried to kidnap an 11-year-old girl as she was waiting Tuesday morning at a school bus stop, according to the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office.

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The incident happened around 7 a.m. at a bus stop on Old Correy Field Road near Perdido Street, deputies said. A girl was waiting at the bus stop when surveillance cameras caught a white Dodge Journey driving past her several times. Eventually, the vehicle pulled up by the girl, and a man armed with a knife jumped out from inside.

“He grabs her and tries to pull her into that vehicle,” Sheriff Chip Simmons said Tuesday at a news conference. “She reports that he had a knife in one hand, and he grabbed her around the neck with the other hand.”

Update 11:37 p.m. EDT May 18: Investigators with the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office identified the man as Jared Paul Stanga, 30, WALA reported. He is charged with attempted kidnapping, aggravated assault with a knife, and battery.

Update 10:12 p.m. EDT May 18: The Escambia County Sheriff’s Office said a 30-year-old man was arrested and charged in the attempted kidnapping of an 11-year-old girl at a bus stop.

In a news conference Thursday night, Escambia County Sheriff Chip Simmons said he could not immediately release the man’s name because the investigation was ongoing, WEAR-TV reported. Simmons said the man had a criminal history that included sexual offenses with a child.

“This animal is off the street,” Simmons told reporters. “We can once again applaud the efforts and resilience of that 11-year-old girl.”

Simmons said investigators were able to find the man’s vehicle at an address near the bus stop, WALA reported.

The man was arrested at about 5 p.m CDT, Simmons said.

Original report: Video shared by deputies showed the girl dropping her bag as she struggles with the man, who picks her up at one point and attempts to carry her away.

“Luckily, she fights,” Simmons said. “She went limp, and she’s kicking, and she’s pushing, and she’s punching, and she’s able to get free. She then picks up her bag and starts to flee.”

The girl went back to her house, which is in the area, the sheriff said. She had some scratches, but no other injuries.

Authorities said the man got back into the Dodge Journey after the failed kidnapping and took off.

“I think it’s important at this time to emphasize how horrible this could have been,” Simmons said. “You can tell his intent because it is clear. His intent is to get her into his car, and from that point on, we have no idea what horrors would have awaited this poor little girl.”

The man was described as a possibly Hispanic male in his 30s or 40s who was driving a white Dodge Journey with a silver bumper.

Simmons said the man had approached the girl once before, about two weeks ago, as she was waiting at a bus stop. The man spoke Spanish, and the girl did not understand everything he said, but Simmons said the incident made her uncomfortable enough that she told her school principal. In the days between then and Tuesday, the girl’s mother walked her to the bus stop every morning.

“This is the first day that she didn’t walk to the bus stop with her daughter,” Simmons said. ”So, we believe that this person has either been watching her specifically, or (he was) just walking around looking for an opportunity. Either way it’s bad.”

Simmons urged parents to go with their children if they have to go to a bus stop alone and praised the 11-year-old girl targeted Tuesday for fighting back.

“She seems to be doing well,” Simmons said Tuesday. “I’m not so sure if she actually comprehends exactly what could have happened. She understands what happened. She fought like a trooper, and one of these days I’m going to give her an award for fighting, and fighting, and fighting.”

On Tuesday, deputies released an image of the vehicle the man was driving. Anyone with information on the vehicle or the case can contact ECSO at 850-436-9620 or call Crime Stoppers at 850-433-STOP.

Attempted Child Kidnapping Around 7:00 this morning, a white Dodge Journey pulled up to an 11-year-old girl waiting at...

Posted by Escambia County Sheriff's Office on Tuesday, May 18, 2021