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‘Stranger danger’ warning as man follows girl walking from school

ST. LOUIS – There’s a warning for parents in the St. Louis Hills neighborhood of south city about a man following a girl near Francis Park after school.

It happened around 3:30 p.m. Thursday, police said.

According to police, the school, and social media posts from witnesses, the man was on a bicycle, hanging around on the park sidewalk as St. Gabriel the Archangel School was letting out. He started following a girl as she walked home. He approached her near Tamm and Eichelberger and made inappropriate comments. Witnesses saw it happening and called 911. Police responded. The man was last seen pedaling south on Hampton Avenue.

The man reportedly ditched the bicycle near January and Rhodes, with another concerned parent waiting with the girl until her family came to get her. The girl was not physically harmed.

The school principal e-mailed an alert to parents saying, in part:

“…our (police) liaison officer … is going to request that 2nd district officers increase their presence in the area around dismissal time … please remind students to walk in pairs or groups, stay alert to their surroundings, and not to hesitate to call the police if they see something suspicious or feel unsafe.”

Parents showed up early to pick up their kids Friday and scout the park.

“We live just on the other side of the park,” said Steve Schmitt, a St. Gabriel parent. “It used to be that you would have no reservation about having your son or daughter riding their bikes to school. We hear this today, makes you think about changing your mind.”

“Things like this don’t happen in this area. When it does, it does alarm everybody. Everybody comes together as parents to watch out for everybody else’s child,” said parent Andreea Delatorre.

“That’s why we live here,” said Schmitt. “It’s a tight-knit neighborhood. Everybody looks out. We’re not going anywhere.”

Police described the suspect as an African-American male in his late teens. A witness told Fox2/News 11 he may have been in his early 20s with scraggly, bushy hair.

If you have any information on this incident, you’re asked to contact the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department.