Police released a sketch Friday night of a kidnapper targeting children in Whittier.
The composite image is part of a ramp-up in police efforts to find the man connected to at least one kidnapping and two attempted abductions.
The latest incident happened on Thursday afternoon near Founders Memorial Park (map). An 11-year-old girl was walking alone when a man forcibly pulled her into his red convertible, police said. A younger girl – about 7 years old – was already in the backseat of the car, crying.
"She knew at that point, I guess, that she was in a bad spot," Lt. Kent Miller with Whittier police told NBC4 Thursday night.
Crediting an "opportunity," Miller said the 11-year-old was able to escape from the car and free the other girl. The pair fled in opposite directions, Miller said.
The older girl ran home and called police, though authorities are unsure about where the younger girl ran to. The 11-year-old told police the man has a tattoo of three dots on his left hand, possibly an indication of a gang connection.
"She's a very brave little girl," Whittier police Officer Brad White said Friday. "It's scary for someone to grab you but then ... to have her wits about her to get herself out of the car, along with another younger female, and get away from him -- she did an excellent job."
He has been described as a Latino, between 25 and 35 years old, about 5 feet 11 inches to 6 feet tall, with a medium to heavy build.
On the morning of Feb. 5, police said he was involved in the attempted kidnapping of a 17-year-old girl in the 13000 block of Broadway, several blocks from the scene of Thursday's attack.
The teen victim spoke anonymously with NBC4 on Friday, describing the incident, which happened when she was walking alone.
"He kept asking me, 'Do you want a ride home, do you want to come in my car?'" she said. "I said 'no' and tried ignoring him. He came to a complete stop and got out of the car, and that's when I ran."
The teen heard about the incident with the two younger girls on Thursday and thought, "that's crazy," she said.
Hours later, a witness reported seeing two high-school-aged girls get into a verbal confrontation with a man who ordered the pair to get into his car.
In all incidents, the man was seen driving a red convertible with a tan roof. Authorities said the attacker's car may have a softball-sized dent in the rear passenger panel.
Police are canvassing neighborhoods and have notified the Whittier City School District. Longfellow Elementary School sent home letters making parents aware of the possible threat.
Anyone with information about the attack is asked to call the Whittier Police Department at 562-567-9241 or Detective Woods at 562-567-9286.