The manhunt for a gunman who tried to kidnap girls in front of Gilbert elementary schools ended Thursday afternoon with the arrest of a pizza deliveryman, police said.
A perceptive school crossing guard and dogged detective work led police to Spencer Ray Baker, 33, of Gilbert who was booked in Maricopa County’s Fourth Avenue Jail in Phoenix on suspicion of aggravated assault in connection with two attempted kidnapping reports earlier the same morning.
Police said a man approached a 12-year-old girl about 8 a.m. walking on South Islands Drive West toward Islands Elementary School, 245 S. McQueen Road. He pulled up next to her in the car, said he had a gun and demanded she get in. The girl saw the "black police gun" and ran until a driver swerved in between the man and the girl, allowing her to escape.
About 20 minutes later, the man repeated the attempt with four girls, ages 10, 10, 8 and 7, walking to school just south of Settler’s Point Elementary School, on East Cypress Street near South Corrine Drive, police said. The girls backed away from the car, and a crossing guard memorized the license plate of the Honda.
The license plate number led Gilbert detectives to a post office box, and from there they tracked down three addresses in Glendale, Tempe and Gilbert.
With surveillance set up at each address, they waited. At 1 p.m., Baker pulled into a Gilbert apartment complex, 2200 W. San Angelo St., and was detained for questioning. Police found a fake gun in his car, and he was identified as the suspect by several witnesses, said police Lt. Joe Ruet.
The Gilbert Unified School District placed 26 schools west of Recker Road on modified lockdown, meaning classes continued, but no one was allowed to enter or leave, said district spokeswoman Dianne Bowers.
"One of our biggest concerns while we were looking for the suspect was we don’t know where he was between 8:20 a.m. and 1 p.m.," Ruet said.
Also Thursday, Maricopa County sheriff’s deputies were on the lookout after a man tried to abduct an 11-year-old boy in Fountain Hills.
The boy was riding a scooter along San Marcos Drive to a friend’s house about 12:45 p.m. when a man in a black ski mask in a parked car spoke to him, said deputy Doug Matteson.
The man is described as white, possibly Hispanic, and driving a red, four-door sedan with white stripes and no hubcaps. It was the second attempted child abduction reported in Fountain Hills in the past two weeks.
• Children should make a scene by yelling loudly "This person is not my parent," and making every effort to get away by kicking, screaming and resisting if someone should try to grab them.
• Children should never take anything or respond in any way if approached by someone they don’t know.
• Talk openly to children about safety and encourage them to tell you if anyone or anything makes them feel scared, uncomfortable or confused.
• Practice using "what if" scenarios to make sure children understand the safety message in a real-life situation.
• Consider varying your daily routines and habits by changing routes and times. SOURCE: National Center for Missing and Exploited Children