COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) – A man who followed a bruised girl into a Colorado Springs convenience store turned and fled just as bystanders realized the girl was the object of a police search after she was abducted the day before, witnesses said.
“I looked the guy dead in the eye and he just spun around and took off,” Efren Vialpando told the Colorado Springs Gazette.
The 9-year-old Pueblo girl called 911 from the store and was taken to a Colorado Springs hospital, where she was reunited with her parents. Details of the girl’s condition weren’t released because of her age, police spokeswoman Barbara Miller said.
She was reported missing Thursday night after she didn’t return home from school.
The suspect, Jose Garcia, 29, was arrested later Friday at a Colorado Springs bus station. He was being held on suspicion of kidnapping. Pueblo police say Garcia could also face a charge of sexual assault on a child.
It wasn’t clear if he had an attorney.
Police have not said where Garcia or the girl were before they were spotted on Friday. A passerby gave them a ride to the store when the vehicle Garcia was driving broke down, police said.
The girl ran into the store ahead of Garcia and called 911.
“She looked at me, right in my eyes. That’s when she looked at the guy,” Vialpando told KRDO-TV. “She said she wasn’t going anywhere, she was waiting right there for her mama.
“And when that happened, I looked at the guy she was talking to. I looked up and I looked him dead in the eyes, and that’s when he just spun around and just cut out,” Vialpando said.
Daniel Espinoza, who was also in the store, said that’s when he noticed the girl was wearing a shirt from the same Pueblo elementary school Espinoza attended, and he realized she was the girl everyone was searching for.
By then, the man was “already gone,” Espinoza said.
Garcia fled on foot and was arrested four hours later near the bus station after a city-wide search involving hundreds of police and FBI agents, authorities said.
Tia Martinez said she was waiting for a bus when saw police arrest a man with a dark hoodie pulled over his head.
“His demeanor was just, he was trying to be under the radar, trying to not get noticed,” Martinez said.
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