Deputies are searching for a masked man who attempted to kidnap a 9-year-old girl was alone riding her bicycle to school in Newbury Park Friday morning, authorities said.
The man tried to "coax" the victim to go inside his white van in the area of Spanish Gate Drive and Lesser Drive, according to the Ventura County Sheriff's Office. He grabbed her leg to pull her into the vehicle, but she was able to get away without any injuries.
"She was able to get away and get back on her bike, and continue to school," Sheriff's Sgt. Eric Buschow told KTLA.
The girl made it to Walnut Elementary, about five blocks away, and notified school officials about the incident. She is also working with sheriff's investigators to provide information about the suspect.
The incident occurred close to Newbury Park High School's stadium.
Residents said helicopters had been circling above the neighborhood as authorities combed the area for suspects.
But since the utility-type van involved is common, it's been difficult to track down.
"Any kind of small business — plumbing operation, handyman, contractor — it's a residential area, you're going to see a lot of white vans," Buschow said.
Several people in the usually quiet area said they were stunned by the incident.
"From a neighbor perspective, all of us, we're concerned," said one woman, who wished to remain anonymous. "This kind of thing doesn't happen in Newbury Park."
Buschow said the case is out-of-the-norm for investigators, too.
"It's extremely unusual to have a stranger abduct a child," he said. "It's a very, very infrequent crime."
The suspect was described as white or Hispanic, in his 30s, and having brown hair. He was wearing all black clothing with aviator sunglasses and a mask on the lower part of his face. His pants may have been stained with paint, and he wore black Nikes, the Sheriff's Office said.
The white van was described as square shaped — similar to a Chevrolet Astro — with no windows on the side but with square, tinted windows on the back. The front windows were tinted as well.
A $1,000 reward is being offered for information leading to an arrest in the case.
Anyone who has information on the suspect or witnessed the incident can contact Detective Sgt. Dan Hawes at 805-371-8392.
KTLA's Erika Martin contributed to this report.