An 11-year-old girl waiting at her bus stop in Pensacola, Florida, managed to fight off and flee from a man who allegedly attempted to kidnap her.
Escambia County Sheriff Chip Simmons claimed the suspect, Jared Paul Stanga, 30, has prior sexual abuse offenses, including against children, according to the Pensacola New Journal.
On May 18 at about 7 a.m., a neighbor’s surveillance camera captured video of what appeared to be Stanga driving by the girl in a white Dodge Journey. The girl seemed to watch the suspect as he passed.
He then returned about a minute later, parked the car in the road, and, jumped out. Allegedly armed with a knife, he grabbed the child by her neck, and they fell to the ground as he dragged her back toward his vehicle. The girl managed to escape as the suspect got back in his car and drove away again.
“She went limp. She’s kicking, she’s pushing, she’s punching, and she’s able to get free,” Escambia County Sheriff Chip W. Simmons said at a press conference, according to the Orlando Sentinel. “It’s important to emphasize how horrible this could have been.”
The victim suffered scratches in the attack and ran back home. Stanga was located about eight hours after the incident.
Simmons said this isn’t the first time the man, who jail records show lived only about seven minutes from the bus stop, may have targeted the girl. Two weeks earlier, Simmons said, the man pulled his vehicle up to her bus stop and tried to talk with her in Spanish. After the alleged incident, the girl’s mother accompanied her daily to the stop — except the day of the attack.
“I think the No. 1 thing that we would tell people, especially in a scenario like this, is to fight like hell, fight, fight, fight like hell. That's what she's doing, she fought like hell. That's what saved her life,” Simmons said. “The unwillingness to give up and to surrender saved her life. She's a hero in my book.”
Stanga now faces charges of attempted kidnapping of a child under 13, aggravated assault, and battery. He was booked and held on a $1.505 million bond, according to online records.