FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Shadari Gardner holds hands with her mom sitting on the couch. She’s still shaken up, but thankful she’s safe.
“I just want all the girls around me to be okay. I don’t want anyone to be hurt,” she said.
“He told me to get in because he wanted to help and I told him that I didn’t need help,” Shadari said. “He said, ‘Just get in!’ and I said, ‘No!’ and he got out of his car and he got me by the arm and it hurt a lot. He pulled me and I
yanked back and it hurt my arm. I told him my brothers were on the way and he got back in his car and drove off.”
The 13-year-old was walking home from the laundromat around 7 p.m. Sunday. Her brothers were having trouble carrying their bags and were lagging behind. She was near the Arby’s at Rudisill and Lafayette when a dark car pulled up beside her.
When her brothers caught up, Shadari told them what happened and they went home where their mom, Lakysha Gardner, was making dinner.
“Her face was really red and I could see the tears. It was like ice coming down her cheeks and she dropped everything and walked to me and hugged me and wouldn’t let go,” Lakysha said.
They called police and an officer came to take a report.
“They made her feel safe again. They told her everything was going to be okay, but as a parent I’m worried,” Lakysha said.
A detective is now following up on the case.
“She gave a fairly detailed description of the individual and the car,” Michael Joyner with the Fort Wayne Police Department, said. “We’ll take that information and apply it to the databases to see if anyone with the physical description drives that vehicle and see if there’s a match.”
Shadari said her attacker was an African American with a beard, about 5’9″ to 6′ tall with a slender build and was wearing dirty tan khakis and a black Northface zip-up. He was driving a small dark-colored two-door car.
“I was really scared at the moment. Usually my mom would tell me to get the license plate number and I couldn’t because I was crying so much and he drove off really fast,” Shadari said.
Shadari said lessons from her mom helped her get out of the terrifying situation.
“We all have this plan when we are outside and if strangers come up, we’re not allowed to talk to strangers,” she said.
Her mom also taught them to pay close attention to their surroundings.
“Notice everything. Look at everything around you. You never know when you can break free from this and try to figure out everything. Just the littlest thing, even a smell, might help,” Lakysha said.
Shadari also hopes her story will help other kids stay safe too.
“If you’re not safe and smart, you could be abducted,” she said.
Whenever possible, children should walk in pairs or groups. There is safety in numbers. Police added that while incidents like this don’t happen a lot in Fort Wayne, parents have an obligation to prepare their children by actually running a scenario and acting it out with them.
“These are stressful events and if you think a child will remember this one time, you’re wrong. Practice it. Practice it. Practice it,” Joyner said.
The following are instructions from the Fort Wayne Police Department:
Act like a stranger and see how your children react. Teach them the proper way to respond. Kids should:
- Run away
- Yell loudly
- Say exactly what is happening
- “Help! This is not my Dad!”
- “Help! This is not my Mom!”
- “Help! I’m being kidnapped!”
- “Help! Call the police!”
- If children just scream, people may think they are throwing a temper tantrum. The more you practice the better your children will be as responding to difficult situations.
Talk to your children about safety practices on a daily basis. Children do not put the same emphasis on suspicious activity as adults. Asking them direct questions (Did you talk to anyone new today?) may bring suspicious acts to light. If they report anything suspicious, call the nearest local law enforcement agency.
Teach your children to be good witnesses and try to remember as many details as possible:
- License plate number and state
- Color of vehicle
- Body style (2 door, 4 door, wagon, etc.)
- Location and direction of travel
- Description of occupants
- Clothing (hat, jacket, shirt, pants, shoes, etc.)
- Facial features:
- Hair color
- Hair length
- Mustache, beard
- Missing Teeth
- Location and direction of travel