Students Grabbed Near Elementary Schools, Families Concerned

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MODESTO -- Modesto Police are investigating two separate incidents near elementary schools in Modesto in which students walking to or from school were approached and grabbed by adults they didn't know. At this point police don’t believe the two incidents are related, but with both happening on the same day, its left parents in the school community feeling concerned.

"I was literally like, what?"

That was Feletha Gentry's reaction hearing that a man tried to grab an 8-year-old boy Tuesday near the boy’s apartment, where the school bus drops him off every day. It's the same stop where Gentry’s grandson Thomas gets off – both are students at Woodrow Elementary.

“For somebody to come into our neighborhood and try to do something like that to one of our kids, all of us got to be on point. Extra point. You know because these are our babies, we can't let these people do what they think they can do, just come and snatch our kids off the street,” said Gentry.

"You hope your kids are safe leaving school and getting on the bus, you just don't expect that,” said Debbie Wilson, a mother whose son is in third grade at Woodrow Elementary.

Police say the boy was able to run away from the man. Just a few hours earlier, another man who Modesto Police officials say may have been homeless and on drugs, grabbed a six-year-old student on his way to school at Stockard Coffee Elementary. The boy's grandfather was nearby and was able fend the attacker off.

"We do take everything seriously because a student’s safety is first and foremost,” said Debra Hendricks, Superintendent of Sylvan Union Schools, the district in which both Woodrow Elementary and Stockard Coffee Elementary operate.

Hendricks says Modesto Police had extra patrol cars around both schools when they let out. She sent a general warning to parents.

"Reminding parents about make sure your children if they're walking to and from [school] make sure they're walking with someone,” said Hendricks.

"We ask that your children be alert when walking to and from school,” read a voice alert which described both attacks in detail. The message was sent out to parents of students at Beyer and Davis High Schools, just blocks from where the assaults happened.

Parents of students say they're now rethinking the way they protect their kids.

"It's important to talk to our kids about strangers and strangers don't look scary,” said Wilson.

"It's not happening, not on my watch at least. We're going to be out here if I got to come out here every day at 2:15, I will be right here every day,” said Gentry.

Police provided suspect descriptions as follows: The first attacker is a white male in his twenties wearing a long sleeve shirt. The second attacker is described as a tall, black man with blonde hair in his fifties.

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