LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Parents have long taught their children about “stranger danger,” teaching them what to do if they are approached by someone they don’t know out in public.
One 11-year-old middle school girl had to deal with that situation right here in Lubbock when she was approached by a suspicious man in his car while she was walking home from school. Now, her mother is sending a warning to help other parents protect their kids.
Tonya Gooch says her daughter goes to Atkins Middle School, less than three blocks away from their home, and she walks home after school all the time. Gooch says her daughter has a routine: she gets out of school, walks home, and calls her mom when she gets in. Unfortunately, Tuesday afternoon was different.
“She was coming down Avenue T and this car slowed down, rolled their window down, and looked at her, but kept going,” Gooch said.
Gooch says her daughter didn’t think much of it and continued on her way. She cut through a field that divides her school from her home, but was met by a man in a white car when she got back on the sidewalk.
“He must have been watching her or something. He stopped and asked her if she saw a puppy and she said no," Gooch said. "Then he asked her if she would like to help him look for this puppy.”
It’s the age-old scenario your parents warn you about. and this little girl wasn’t falling for it.
“Again, she said no, and then he asked if she wanted to ride home. At that point, she took off running and came home. She locked the door and called me. I was terrified,” Gooch said.
She called the police and notified Lubbock ISD of what happened. She says she’s taught her daughter what to do in situations like this, but never expected it to actually happen.
“I just tell her if they’re going to walk, not to walk close to the street and stay on the sidewalk, far away from the car, so they can’t open the door and reach out and grab them. I tell them don’t talk to anybody and don’t get anybody’s car," Gooch said. "That if I didn’t specifically tell them somebody was picking them up, not to get in their car.”
She’s proud that her daughter did just that. “I’m kind of surprised she didn’t tell him off actually. She looks like my little, sweet innocent one, but she’s still a lot tougher than you would think. She’s actually handled it really well.”
Lubbock ISD Chief Jody Scifres says this type of interaction is very rare, but they’re taking it seriously and informing students how to handle these types of situations just like Gooch’s daughter did.
This incident happened on 57th Street and Avenue S. The girl got a description of the man who approached her. She said he was skinny and Hispanic with tattoos on his face and drove a smaller white car.