The Juneau Police Department is searching for an unidentified man suspected of approaching elementary students at a bus stop Thursday morning.
The man allegedly tried to convince two Gastineau Elementary School students, who were standing at the bus stop along Douglas Highway by David Street, that their parents had sent him to pick them up, according to a JPD news release.
JPD spokeswoman Cindee Brown-Mills said in a phone interview that the students did not go with the man, went home and reported the incident to a parent.
A parent then called JPD to report it at about 9 a.m., according to Brown-Mills.
The police are asking the public to help identify the suspect.
According to the release, the man was driving a white van that had front windows with no other visible windows on it.
He is described as being white, unknown age, and somewhere between 5’8” and 5’11” tall. Police said he had a medium build, long black hair pulled back into a ponytail, and a neck tattoo that would only be half visible if he was wearing a T-shirt. He was apparently wearing a top hat and sunglasses, police said in the release.
JPD is not releasing any additional information about the case right now since police officers with both the patrol division and investigations unit are actively investigating the case, Brown-Mills said. The ages and grades of the students involved were not immediately known.
Juneau School District Communications Manager Kristin Bartlett said Gastineau Elementary school issued a statement using their automated message to inform parents of the incident before school let out for the day. All principals of all the 12 schools in the district were informed of the incident, Bartlett said.
Gastineau Elementary School Principal Brenda Edwards also got on the bus that uses the David Street bus stop and reminded students about safety measures and ‘stranger danger’ before they were dropped off Thursday afternoon, according to Bartlett.
“Without trying to cause worry, she made sure that they were thinking about being safe,” Barlett said in a phone interview late Thursday afternoon.
Students at Dzantik’i Heeni Middle School also use the David Street bus stop, and they were also reminded of safety precautions before they were dropped off Thursday afternoon, Bartlett said.
School bus drivers with First Student School Bus Transportation Services, which the district uses, were also asked to be on the lookout for suspicious activity, Bartlett said.
“Student safety is definitely our number one concern, so we were trying to use every avenue to get this information into the hands of adults within the district that could help keep an eye out for our students,” Bartlett said.
The school resource officer, JPD Officer Sarah Hieb, will also be doing a presentation on safety training for Gastineau students on Friday, Bartlett said.
Police ask members of the public who have any information about the man described above or the van to call JPD at 586-0600. Members of the public that wish to remain anonymous can report a tip to the Juneau Crime Line at juneaucrimeline.com.
This is the first such incident reported this school year, according to Brown-Mills.
There was a similar incident last school year in April, wherein police received a report of an unknown man trying to convince a fifth-grader to get into his small dark green car after school let out at Gastineau Elementary School.
The student in that case asked for the secret family password, and when the driver didn’t know it, the student refused the ride, police said previously.
The man in that case was described by police as being of medium build with black tight curly hair and facial hair.
Brown-Mills said she believed the suspect was never found in that earlier case. She said it was unknown at this point in time if the cases were related.
“It’s really unknown at this point whether the two are connected or not,” she said.
• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.