Lack of communication concerns parents after attempted kidnapping at Salt Lake City school

‘Kids are terrified by stuff like this, it causes a terrible amount of trauma for them.’

(Photo provided by Salt Lake City Police Department) A man was arrested Tuesday after attempting to kidnap a 12-year-old girl who was walking to school, according to Salt Lake City Police.

After an attempted kidnapping occurred in their own neighborhood, many parents of Liberty Elementary School students are concerned about the lack of communication, with many only finding out about the arrest from friends and family before the school.

Parent Fiona Robinson Hill highlighted the concern of many parents relying on communication when they are busy at work.

“The demographic of Liberty is working parents, working family members, so many of the students are responsible for getting themselves to school,” Hill said.

Another parent, John Wilson, was worried over the mental health of the victim and children and school staff after hearing about the attempted abduction of the 12-year-old girl.

“In a situation like this you have the victim of the attempted kidnapping herself, then every other school student is a victim of what has happened,” he said. “Kids are terrified by stuff like this, it causes a terrible amount of trauma for them.”

However, Hill was not made aware of Tuesday morning’s incident and arrest until her friends and family reached out to see if her children were okay, and Wilson said he wasn’t aware until he turned on the local news.

“A lot of our children were already in bed; how could we talk to them if we didn’t see any news stories or social media postings?” Hill asked.

Hill was angered that she didn’t have time Tuesday night to speak to her children about “stranger danger.”

“We had this little window of time this morning from when they get up to when they head to school to say, ‘Hey, someone was almost kidnapped at your school yesterday,’ and kind of deal with all the reactions and process that before they go off to school,” Wilson said. “In my mind, the school district, by not letting us know about this, they’ve inflicted more trauma on every single student in the school.”

The Salt Lake City Police Department says they strategically delayed the release of information to help catch the suspect, who was apprehended just hours after the initial report.

“This is a particular circumstance where the victim had to have a forensic interview,” said Det. Ben Nielsen with the Salt Lake City Police Department. “We had information that we knew who the suspect was and at that point, we did determine there wasn’t a threat to the community.

“In order to continue our investigation and make an arrest appropriately, we determined at the time it probably wasn’t appropriate to release that information.”

The Salt Lake City School District made it clear it was not the school or district’s decision to delay telling parents.

In emails shared with Fox 13 News, Liberty Elementary School principal Julia Barrientos said, “I want to also let you know why you didn’t hear from me about this incident earlier today: this is an ongoing investigation, and we were instructed by law enforcement officers not to share information until they had gathered more information. The Salt Lake City Police Department sent out a press release this evening, and we are now able to share with you what happened today.”

Both Hill and Wilson were thankful the suspect was apprehended quickly, but still have questions about the time gap between the arrest and the release of information.

“They got their man relatively quickly,” said Wilson, “there was no justification at all not to let the public know once somebody had been arrested and they identified who it was.”

“I’m very glad this person was apprehended and that he’s no longer out on the street, so I think that was a very good job,” Hill added. “But the information would’ve been helpful and more comforting.”

This article is published through the Utah News Collaborative, a partnership of news organizations in Utah that aim to inform readers across the state.