Manatee County, Florida -- A 16-year-old girl says she was assaulted and robbed on her way to her school bus stop Tuesday morning.
The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office has stepped up patrols in the area of 20th Street and 50 Avenue Drive E. The School District of Manatee County has sent an email home alerting parents and students and reminding them to be vigilant of their surroundings. The district is also checking the lighting in the area of the alleged attack. Neighbors say it’s too dark when kids walk to school especially in the grassy area where the teen says she was attacked.
“It was very terrifying. I was afraid I was going to die,” says the teenage girl, who asked she not be identified by name or have or face shown.
This 16-year-old 10th-grader started her school day like any other walking a few blocks to her bus stop around 6 a.m. As she reached the bend in the road she says a man confronted her.
The teen says, “Told me to turn around, I refused. He grabbed my backpack yanked me back a bit then then he tackled me to the ground. I tried to scream for help he covered my mouth. He told me I needed to shut up or he’d choke me.”
The Southeast High School student says the man had a Spanish accent and told her to take off her clothes, He even tried to remove her shirt and at that moment the dark street lit up.
“A car pulled around the corner, he ran off and took my phone with him. I’m thankful that car pulled around the corner,” says the teen. She credits that driver with saving her life by scaring off her attacker.
Next, the teen says she ran to a neighbor’s house but when no one answered ran home and called 911.
“I didn’t care about her cell phone … I just wanted to know she was all right,” says Kerry, the teenager’s mom.
Investigators continue to search for the alleged attacker. The teen says when one of her friends called her phone a man answered and said his name was Jose.
10News WTSP asked Dave Bristow, the sheriff’s office spokesperson, if there’s any reason to doubt her story. “No not at this time,” says Bristow.
Deputies say it is a good time to remind students to walk to their bus stop with a buddy.
The teenage girl agrees, “I think the lesson is beware of your surroundings. Don’t think you’re invincible because you are not. People think this stuff doesn’t happen to them. I’m one of the lucky ones -- I got away.”
The teen says she's afraid to walk alone and from now on her mom will accompany her to the bus stop in the morning.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Manatee County Sheriff's Office at 941-747-3011 or Crime Stoppers at 866-634-TIPS.