Teacher's Aide Foils Kidnapping By Realizing Former Student Looks 'Scared'

by Maria Guido

Last week, a teacher’s aide followed her intuition and ended up rescuing an 11-year-old girl from a stranger’s car.

On her way to work last week, Sandra Ferguson spotted a former student sitting in the front seat of a car with a middle-aged man and immediately “sensed something was wrong.” Ferguson said the girl “looked scared.” From ABC News:

“I said, ‘Sweetheart, is that your dad?’ She said, ‘No he’s a friend.’ I said, ‘No, he’s not your friend!'” explained Ferguson. “I put my car in front of his and blocked him in. I told her, ‘You get out of that truck right now!'”

She then called the police, who arrested 51-year-old Santiago Salazar on suspicion of kidnapping. Investigators determined the girl had been lured to the vehicle by Salazar on her way to Sutter Elementary School at around 7 A.M. Salazar grabbed her by the wrist and forced her inside. Terrifying. It happened in broad daylight on this street:

Sutter Elementary School principal Debra Harrington told ABC News that Ferguson “was a guardian angel” and that she prevented “something terrible from happening.”

There are small steps you can take to help your child if a dangerous situation like this ever arises. First, remember there is safety in numbers and try to have a walking buddy for your child. Also, establish a “code word” and explain if anyone out of the ordinary attempts to pick them up, they should always ask for it. A code word can be any word that you and your child decide on — just reinforce that they should ask for it if anyone who doesn’t normally pick them up approaches them. You can also rehearse certain scenarios so that your child knows you would never send someone they were not familiar with to pick them up — and if anyone claims they have been sent to pick them up who they are not familiar with and they are alone, they should “No, Go, Yell, Tell” — from the National Crime Prevention Council:

If in a dangerous situations, kids should say no, run away, yell as loud as they can, and tell a trusted adult what happened right away. Make sure that your children know that it is okay to say no to an adult in a dangerous situation and to yell to keep themselves safe, even if they are indoors. It’s good to practice this in different situations so that your children will feel confident in knowing know what to do.

This is really an example of “the village” in action. Ferguson sensed something was wrong, and acted. She says, “It was kind of like a superwoman power thing. I can’t believe [I] did that!”