Police find, clear 'person of interest' in connection with attempted kidnapping

GASTON COUNTY, N.C. — Officials have found the "person of interest" they had been looking for after a 7-year-old girl reported she was nearly kidnapped in Gaston County over the weekend.

On Wednesday, officials told Channel 9 that the person they were looking for in surveillance images that police distributed to the press had been found.

Detectives spoke with the man and cleared him.

Investigators said they were still looking for a white man who was wearing an orange shirt though.

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Police said they responded to a home on Tryon School Road outside of Bessemer City Saturday after reports of an attempted kidnapping.

"It's terrifying and it's shocking. I have been here eight years and never had nothing like this,” said the girl's aunt, who didn’t want to be identified.

She said the 7-year-old girl was playing in her own front yard when the stranger in an orange shirt approached her.

“He grabbed her,” the aunt said.

She said the man tried to hit her niece. Another child heard the scream and ran for help. The 7-year-old kicked the man in the groin and ran.

"I'm glad she knows if somebody tried to hurt her to do whatever you got to do to get away,” the girl’s aunt said.

Channel 9 listened to the 911 call made on Saturday. In it, the caller tells the dispatcher, "She said that he said if she told anyone, he would take her from her momma and kill her."

The girl said she was pulled into an abandoned mobile home in the area.

“He had grabbed my 7-year-old and took her in the house and tried to do something with her," the girl's mother told dispatchers. "She managed to kick him and got away and come home. But this guy, we can’t find him at all now.”

"She is going to remember this the rest of her life," said Linda Friday, who lives the neighborhood.

Friday has been more attentive lately about locking her door.

"It breaks my heart,” she said. “That’s crazy."

Her husband is hoping justice is served.

"I hope they catch that sucker,” Jerry Friday said. “I really hope they do."

Officers initially released surveillance pictures on Tuesday that captured a man with red and black Peace Sports moped at a convenience store on Dallas-Cherryville Highway about 30 minutes before the incident.

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The store is not far from where police believe the attempted abduction happened but investigators said on Wednesday that they spoke with the man in those images and he is not connected with the case.

The girl's aunt said her niece is OK, but she and the other children in the neighborhood are scared.

"Give our children peace of mind that it's OK to come outside and play. That it's OK to go to church. Our children won't even get on the bus, they are scared to death,” she said.

Police are asking anyone with information about the incident to call the Gaston County Police Department at 704-866-3320 or Crimestoppers at 704-861-8000.

Check back with wsoctv.com for updates.

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