It was just before noon today that two men in a tan car pulled up to a 14-year-old girl walking to a store on St Paul's east side and tried to abduct her, pushing her toward the car as she grabbed the mirror to resist, and dragging her 30 feet before she finally escaped.
Noting the license plate, the girl identified the driver in a photo lineup, leading police to arrest a 31 year old suspect.
"She did exactly what you would instruct a child to do," said St. Paul police spokesperson Tom Walsh.
But did the public? Not according to the girl's mother, who believes people driving by, in the neighborhood, or on the street saw her daughter's assault but did nothing to stop it.
"It was like nobody cared," said Jovita Martinez. "There were people out here on the east side that didn't help her. They were seeing a kid like that getting dragged, and somebody should have helped her."
St. Paul police today say they don't know if that's true, that while there may have been cars nearby this morning, it's possible none of those drivers knew what was happening.
John Tauer agrees. An expert in what's called the bystander effect, Tauer says most people don't expect crimes with circumstances like this one: it happened in a neighborhood and in daylight, so even those willing to help may not have thought there was reason to.
"You may have driven past the car and not necessarily noticed it," Tauer said. "That could be one factor where people would be caught off guard and less likely to think this is an emergency."
The store's surveillance footage may help find any witnesses, since cameras installed just two days ago were pointed toward the street. But police say while the girl could have used help, she's a survivor all on her own.
"This is a pretty resilient kid," Walsh said.
Police say the suspect's criminal history includes just traffic violations, and that he is not cooperating with the investigation. He has not been charged.
Police are still looking for the second man involved, but say there's no indication the two men were armed, or that they knew the girl.
She suffered scrapes to her legs and hips, and was treated and released today at Children's Hospital.
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