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Sheriff: Community helps solve kidnapping cases

Sheriff: Community helps solve kidnapping cases

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — Tips from residents, including a close-up surveillance photo of a person connected to the attempted abduction of two women, helped sheriff’s deputies catch a suspect: a 13-year-old Pointe West resident. Dozens of people gathered at a gazebo Wednesday to hear Indian River County Sheriff Eric Flowers give an update on the events that unfolded not far from 16th Avenue and 74th Street.

“The community provided us with the photo that helped us solve this case. It made a huge difference,” Flowers said. “We were able to get to him right away, track him down and take him into custody.”

The final photo shows a clear image of the young girl wearing a blue, black and white hoodie and black Adidas sweatpants with white stripes on the sides. The clothing not only matches the clothing of a person seen walking in the area where the attacks occurred in surveillance video released by the sheriff’s office, but also matches the woman’s description of the suspect.

Flowers also thanked officers for their tireless efforts to apprehend the suspect. Authorities said the suspect is a Storm Grove Middle School student. Residents were left in shock when the sheriff announced the suspect’s age and that he is 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighs 200 pounds.

The teen was arrested Wednesday afternoon and charged with attempted kidnapping. Flowers said the teen was taken to the Department of Juvenile Justice in Fort Pierce.

It is not yet clear whether additional charges are expected.

In the incidents of July 2 and 7, residents were shocked to learn that a masked man approached women after dark and tried to attack them by pulling a knife.

“In the second incident, the young man approached this woman from behind. He can be seen in the video following her. He hides behind cars and tries to follow her,” Flowers said. “He approaches her porch and they get into a scuffle. She eventually runs away and he runs away.”

Flowers said deputies are currently investigating a third incident after a woman came forward after seeing surveillance footage. She said the same young man followed her home in late June and knocked on her front door.

Flowers said the attempted abductions were unusual for the quiet, tree-lined community of Pointe West. Deputies shared portions of surveillance video on social media.

After the footage was released, a witness came forward and sent officers a close-up photo of the suspect. Officers executed a search warrant at nearby homes, where they found Adidas pants and a multi-coloured hoodie.

Detectives spoke with the teenager, who said he felt like he was in a “dreamlike state,” according to the sheriff’s office. Drugs were not involved in any of the incidents, sheriff’s officials said.

“He kind of admitted that he was the guy who did it,” Flowers said. “He saw the (surveillance) video.”

The sheriff said the young man’s mother was very angry.

“My mom is very upset about this. He’s bigger than her. There’s no way to control him,” Flowers said. “Today, we’re happy he’s behind bars where he belongs.”

Although the teen was arrested, Flowers said the teen will return home at some point. Flowers said officers will notify residents if the teen is released.

The sheriff still asks residents to remain vigilant.

“We have to be careful,” Flowers said. “I’m very pleased that the community was so engaged in this and that we were able to get this resolved quickly.”

Indian River County School District officials declined to comment because the investigation is active. Residents who see any suspicious activity should call 911.