The mother of the victim said her 3-year-old was almost lured into a car at Martin Luther King Jr. Park.
The Winter Park Police Department is searching for the suspect following a reported attempted kidnapping earlier this month at the playground at Martin Luther King Jr. Park
According to a Facebook post from the mother shared by the Winter Park Police Department, the mother and her daughter went to the playground — referred to by many as “Castle Park” — and a boy between the ages of 8 and 10 started talking with the daughter and trying to coax her away from the other children.
The boy reportedly asked her how old she was, to which she responded, “I’m 3.” The boy reportedly replied, “Oh, that’s good.” He continued to follow the daughter around the playground — the mother kept her distance but continued to watch the situation closely.
She then saw the older boy leave the play area and head toward the bathrooms while trying to hold her daughter’s hand. The bathrooms had an exit to a parking lot, and the mother noticed a parked car was running with a driver still in the seat nearby.
The boy touched her daughter and said, “Tag, you’re it. Come and get me,” and ran toward the car. The mother immediately called her daughter’s name and stopped her from following just in time to see the boy jump in the running car and drive off.
The mother and daughter left the park immediately, and the incident was reported. The mother wasn’t able to get a photo of the car or the tag on the back.
Winter Park Police Department officials said the suspected driver is a middle-aged white male with a buzz cut and dark sunglasses. The vehicle is a dark-colored sedan, possibly an Acura, with darker tinted windows.
Winter Park Lieutenant John Montgomery said cases like this are rare and that the best thing for parents is constant vigilance.
“It’s extremely rare,” Montgomery said. “Make sure you’re watching your kid and who they’re with, whether they’re on the playground or out shopping or wherever.”
The Facebook post also revealed the mother used a neon shirt to help her keep a closer watch on her daughter.
Montgomery said the park had no history of such incidents.
“I can’t recall that that’s ever happened,” Montgomery said.
The police department encourages everyone to be aware of their surroundings and to call the police if they see any suspicious activity.