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Expert shares safety tips after girl escapes alleged kidnapping attempt

Sasi Ponchaisang / EyeEm/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) — An 11-year-old is being praised for her quick action after a man allegedly attempted to kidnap her in an incident that was caught on camera in Glendale, Arizona, on Friday.

In security camera footage obtained by the Glendale Police Department, a driver in a car is seen making a sharp U-turn before pulling up next to a fifth-grader walking to school. Seconds later, the driver gets out of the car and appears to try to grab the girl as she sprints away and screams for help.

“In that moment, this male jumped out and started running towards her with his arms extended towards her as if trying to grab her, which caused her obviously to flee,” Glendale Police Public Information Officer Moroni Mendez explained.

With the help of the video and the girl’s description, authorities identified the suspect as 37-year-old Joseph Leroy Ruiz, who they said lives in the same apartment complex as the girl.

Ruiz was arrested on charges of attempted kidnapping and custodial interference. He is currently being held under $250,000 bond.

According to court documents, the girl said she first spotted Ruiz outside her home and claimed he gave her an “odd look.” She said she then ran towards her school, where police say Ruiz pulled up in his car, got out and lunged at her.

“We just want to praise her and congratulate her for doing such a good job and protecting her own life,” Mendez said. “She was aware of everything that was going on around her and observed that the male was actively trying to grab her.”

Mendez shared tips for parents who may be concerned about letting their kids walk to school, including getting to know one’s surroundings, letting kids know it’s OK to run away and scream if they feel uncomfortable and to use codewords if necessary.

“Walk with your child, walk with your student on the path they’re going to take to school so that they’re aware of it, so that they know where they can run to if need be,” Mendez said.

“Make sure the child knows the parent’s phone number or ways of contacting them,” Mendez added. “Also let them know that at school, there’s a lot of great people, that they’re going to want the best for them and their well-being and their safety, so they can confide in those teachers and upper management staff.”


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