Police search for 'person of interest' in attempted abduction

- Police in Athens-Clarke County are searching for a person of interest in an attempted abduction. Investigators said a man tried to snatch a child off the street last week during a parade.

The incident happened a week ago in the heart of Downtown Athens on a crowded street during the annual Downtown Christmas Parade. It was still light outside when investigators said a 5-year-old girl, who was with her friends and a teacher, was approached by a man near the intersection of North Hull and West Hancock streets.

"One of the people who was with, one of the adults with her, was a teacher and her job was to put like glitter in the kids hair because they were part of the parade. Well, when she saw this young girl as she was going to put glitter she noticed a while male kneeled down next to her holding her," said Epifanio Rodriguez, Athens-Clarke County Police.

Police said the teacher then approached the two.

"She walked up to the girl and she engaged in a conversation with this person and started to realize this person was not family and this person was not supposed to be with this little girl," said Rodriguez.

What happened next can only be described as disturbing.

“At that point where this man stood up and grabbed the little girl and attempted to walk away with her and saying he was going to take pictures with her,” said Rodriguez. “The teacher wisely says you aren't going anywhere with this child grabs the child and takes the child away from this gentleman without any kind of fight and without exchange or anything along those lines and then the suspect walks away from her.”

Thanks to surveillance cameras in the area, police were able to capture an image which they released Friday. They are calling the man in the photo a “person of interest” and want to talk to him.

"It's a scary thought. Any time it could happen anywhere. That's the scariest thought that someone would attempt to do something along those lines whether it's on a Christmas parade or be you're walking through Wal-mart or through a store that's a scary thought,” said Rodriguez.

Investigators continue to question witnesses, but are hoping to the public can help identify the man. Police describe the man as being white man in 40s or 50s with reddish brown hair and a scruffy beard and standing about 5 feet, 8 inches tall. At the time, he was wearing dark pants or dark jeans and wearing a plaid flannel jacket.

Anyone with information should call the Athens-Clarke County Police Department.

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