Mountain View police are investigating "suspicious circumstances" in which a man reportedly lunged at a 9-year-old student at Bubb Elementary School in Mountain View at 8:45 a.m. Thursday (March 29) and then ran off, according to police spokeswoman Liz Wylie.
Initial reports suggested it was an attempted kidnapping, but Wylie said that has been ruled out. A police department statement said the man (pictured in the sketch at right) was stretching against a tether ball pole. When the student, who was returning to class from the restroom, came within 6 feet of the man, he lunged at her and then ran off.
The man was described as a white male in his 50s, heavyset and wearing a navy blue polo shirt and gray jeans.
"The Mountain View Whisman School District immediately instituted a buddy system for any student who needed to leave class for any reason," a police department statement reads. "Parents were also notified of the incident. Police officers provided extra presence on campuses as the schools let out early due to a minimum day."
Attempted kidnapping in Los Altos Hills
The Santa Clara County Sheriff's Department has classified a second incident in Los Altos Hills that occured at approximately 11:20 a.m. Thursday as an attempted kidnapping. A sheriff's spokesman said this incident was unrelated to the Mountain View incident.
A woman in her early 20s was running near the corner of Hillview Road and Hilltop Drive when a man driving a new Ford F-150 pickup truck pulled up and blocked her path, according to Lt. Don Morissey.
When the woman turned to run the other way, the man, described as in his 20s or 30s with brown hair and a brown baseball hat, paralleled her. She eventually escaped and called the sheriff's department from her cell phone.
When sheriff's deputies arrived, the suspect had already fled.
"Be vigilant," said Morissey. "If you see something, don't be afraid to call us."
Suspicion diffused in Los Altos
In a separate and apparently unrelated incident, Los Altos police officers received reports of a suspicious person lingering outside of St. Simon Parish School on Grant Road who fled via bicycle on Foothill Expressway when approached by a school administrator.
Capt. Andy Galea said that after investigation, the suspect was believed to be to be a cyclist waiting for friends.
Mountain View and Los Altos police officers have determined that the incidents are unrelated.
"It appears this time that there was no crime," Galea said of the Los Altos incident.
Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District Superintendent Barry Groves asked families to discuss exercising caution about contact with strangers.
Local schools react
Los Altos School District Superintendent Jeff Baier issued an email to all parents in the district this afternoon to alert parents of the incidents and informing them of the precautions school staff would be taking:
- No student should be allowed to be outside the classroom unless accompanied by an adult or another student. We will implement a buddy system for students using hallway restrooms or walking to the office or other school locations.
- During recess, lunch, dismissal times and extracurricular activities, supervisors will be on heightened alert. Any suspicious individuals will be immediately reported to the school office.
- Prior to dismissal, schools will announce that students should not walk home alone, but rather, to do so in pairs or groups. If individual students are unable to find other students to accompany them, they are encouraged to use the school phones to contact parents.”
“We are taking these extra precautions to ensure the safety of your children at school,” Baier wrote in his email. “We are also balancing this with our effort to not create a climate of fear. If your child typically walks home from school and your are making other arrangements, please call the school office.”
Eliza Ridgeway, Elliott Burr and Traci Newell contributed to this report.