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10-Year-Old Girl Made Up Story of Man Suspiciously Photographing Children at F-Section Bus Stop

| September 15, 2016

suspicious incident

The intersection of Friar Way and Forest Hill Drive, where the suspicious incident was alleged to have taken place.

On Monday, a 10-year-old girl reported to police that a man was following her in an SUV and taking pictures and video of her from the moment she left home to catch her school bus in Palm Coast’s F-Section. The story led to an investigation by the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office. Once reported on Tuesday and Wednesday, the story caught wide attention in local media and led to alerts and calls for the public’s help to locate the suspicious man.

But it was all a lie: the girl had made it up, the sheriff’s office concluded Thursday. Cops aren’t calling it a hoax, which may have entailed more malicious intent, only that “we believe it did not occur,” in the words of Jim Troiano, the sheriff’s chief spokesman.

The girl, a student at Old Kings Elementary school–she had claimed that the man would follow her school bus all the way to school–will not face charges.

Making a false report to police is a crime, a first-degree misdemeanor, though in this case, Troiano said, “she didn’t give us information about a crime, she gave us info about a suspicious person.”

The girl’s report to police had been detailed enough to include the sort of flourishes that seemed to give the account credibility: the girl knew the man was taking pictures, she told police, because the flash inside his car would go off (though given ambient light of morning a flash is unlikely to go off, thus tipping off investigators that the detail was amiss).

The girl claimed that others at the bus stop were also photographed, that the students on the bus would talk about it on the way to school, and–in a political flourish fit for a season of lies and the liars who make them–she said the SUV boasted a Hillary Clinton sticker. (The girl lives in a household where both adults are registered Republicans, though in point of fact, 70 percent of Donald Trump’s statements are mostly or entirely false, compared to 28 percent for Clinton).

The girl, who is white, also claimed to a school resource deputy that the alleged suspicious man was black.

On Wednesday, a deputy who investigated the case reported: “I parked down the street from the bus stop on Forest Hill Drive. I did not observe anything matching the description of the person or vehicle that was given. I stopped and spoke with [the 10-year-old girl] at the bus stop and she told me that she did not see the male or vehicle this morning. I also made contact with several parents and they all stated they are at the bus stop every morning waiting for the bus and they have not seen anyone or anything suspicious in the past few days.”

By then, the story of the suspicious man was all over local media. At about 1 p.m. the deputy spoke with the girl’s mother. She told the deputy that she’d spoken with her daughter the previous evening “and her story changed several times and that she believes her daughter is lying.” The girl’s mother told the cop that she’d “have a long talk with her when she returns from school this evening.” The deputy said he’d do the same.

The same afternoon, the sheriff’s office picked up another report, this one from a 13-year-old girl whose bus stop is at Forest Hill and Frontier Drive, down the street from where the other incident was alleged to have occurred. The girl, according to an incident report, “believes the vehicle is a Silver Chevrolet Silverado and had a male driver who was wearing a black jacket and a hat. The subject turned onto Forest Hill from Frontier Dr and slowly drove by the bus stop toward Friar Way. As he drove by it appeared as if he was attempting to hide his face but was looking out of the vehicle. She did not see him take any pictures.” The girl recalled a Florida license plate and noticeable scratches on the tailgate, but no Clinton sticker.

The sheriff’s office today issued the following:

Although these incidents did not occur, we do not want to discourage anyone from reporting suspicious activity, as we take all reports seriously. This was, however, an opportunity to talk about what to do when confronted by suspicious people. Deputies urge parents to talk to their children about what to do when approached by a stranger. The following tips can assist you in educating your child:

1. Never talk to strangers or get into their vehicles.
2. When approached by a stranger, tell the stranger in a loud voice that you are not allowed to talk to them and instruct the child to immediately leave the area and contact a family member, school official or crossing guard, law enforcement officer, or enter a business that is occupied (fire station, restaurant etc.).
3. Remember, strangers are not always dirty or suspicious looking. Anyone the child does not know should be considered a stranger.
4. Develop a password with your child, so in the event that you have to send someone to pick up the child, they will know to expect the password.

If you see something suspicious in Flagler County, say something by calling 911 immediately. If you have information about any crime in Flagler County, please call the FCSO at (386) 313-4911, or if you want to remain anonymous, call Crime Stoppers of Northeast Florida at 1-888-277-8477 and be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000.

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18 Responses for “10-Year-Old Girl Made Up Story of Man Suspiciously Photographing Children at F-Section Bus Stop”

  1. Rob says:

    Good story. I feel sorry for the man in the truck whose life could be ruined by the accusations. Also wonder why you thought it was important to bring up the political slant, which was not important to the story…just your bias.

    • FlaglerLive says:

      Rob, the political “slant,” as you put it, was part of the girl’s description in the initial reports to police, and part of the investigation (and one of the reasons the invention was eventually discredited). It was a curious way to embellish the lie for someone so young, given the current political context: children will reflect what they see and hear. Two candidates who have had their troubles with truth, as indicated by the links to their actual non-truth-telling records, are clearly having an effect on younger people’s interpretation of truth. The story is about the embroidery of a lie, however, so commenters should not waste their time bemoaning a political “slant.” Those comments won’t be approved.

  2. kristiona chivers says:

    My sister has that bus stop she said that she has been followed to her friends house and he was taking pictures of her

  3. Anonymous says:

    Kids lie all the time, doesn’t mean they’re racist. Rob is right, bias.

  4. The Geode says:

    I’m glad that I don’t own a SUV. It’s hard enough “DWB” (Driving While Black) without some innocent lil white girl claiming that a “suspicious BLACK MAN” is filming her.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Why would a ten-year old make such an obvious and pathetic bid for attention? A counselor should be found to talk to her and her parents separately to get to the bottom of what prompted this girl’s actions. If she is troubled and needs help, let her get it now, for her own sake as well as everyone else’s.

  6. jasonb says:

    The girl needs to be arrested.

  7. footballen says:

    SMH does EVERYTHING have to come down to political warfare? Really?

  8. Robjr says:

    A Black man did it!

    Where did she acquire that learned behavior?

  9. tulip says:

    I wonder if perhaps the little girl needs more parental attention and interaction? So many kids have parents that are too busy or distracted in their own thoughts or not even home because they both work?

    Also, I think that in a loving way the child should be told the “peter and the wolf” story, making sure she understands that if she makes up too many stories, God forbid if something bad really does happen, she won’t be believed.

    This story is kind of sad.

  10. RP says:

    @flaglerLive I agree with the part about the Clinton sticker. I have no political affiliation, so unbiased opinion here. Though it’s not just political views that rub off on children, other things like racism, bigotry and hatred can be passed on as well. Indoctrination is a real thing.

  11. Outsider says:

    Geode, I normally like your comments, but I have to wonder if you were equally offended when the black guy who seems to have shot himself claimed he was attacked by two other black guys, as described in a recent story here. Maybe that’s where she got the idea, Robjr. Have you all forgotten the Tawana Brawley case? Why don’t we all just dispense with the victimization and admit blacks, whites, greens, etc. commit crimes? It will make it a whole lot easier to get criminals of any stripe off the streets.

  12. Born and Raised Here says:

    I would make the parents pay the County for all services that was provided for this hoax.

  13. blondee says:

    I don’t care if this is a 10-year old or a 30-year old. This was a deliberate waste of police manpower and the family should be made to bear the expense of the manhours wasted.

  14. upyours says:

    What’s the problem Flagler County?….lacking resourses to deal with our juveniles? Then people wonder why is it this place has become a thug, delinquent infested, unsafe city!! Ha!

  15. Anonymous says:

    The child was probably scared to death with all the questioning and by the way it was handled. I wouldn’t say the child was not telling the truth, I would say the child was stressed and became confused by the way the matter was investigated. I can see some local officials wanting everyone to think Palm Coast is paradise and nothing of this sort would ever happen here. I think this would have been best ended by saying they have been unable to find any leads leading to an arrest but will remain watchful.

  16. The Geode says:

    Outsider. Did you NOT read my comment on that story? I believe it was one of the FIRST ones posted. I said something to the effect of “Lol, that dude shot himself”. I am usually “straight down the middle” with my opinions with the (inside and personal) knowledge of the latent and sometimes blatant racism that permeates my life. This happens to be one of those types of incidences and I highlighted it…

  17. Guilt Before Innocence says:

    Is that how it is now? Comparing the comments from the first article to this one, it seems so. We are SO. very quick to judge and convict before knowing the other sides story, the full details, etc. How about waiting on law enforcement, lawyers and the courts do their jobs and we wait on the facts come out. And, speaking of “shooting himself “…that actually happened to someone, literally, where I once lived, because of false sexual battery accusations made by an angry daughter. But, she didn’t have the chance to come clean. He had lost his whole life because of it. She did confess to her Mother a year later.

    You see, it could happen to any of us at any time and our life over. So many people their work and time advocating for child abuse and domestic violence only to have the ones fought to protect take advantage of it. Now, the laws are so strict the innocent don’t stand a chance.

    I have been struggling with this for a while now as I was one of those advocates. But, especially since it has happened to my family. It has destroyed both of us but it has been heartbreaking for me.

    So, I agree with you all and am glad I read these to reinforce my faith in humanity. Now, which direction do we go? I can only hope and pray this “victim” is getting the help needed and is willing to admit the truth as this girl was….whatever the reason. She certainly is a creative child. I wonder about the witnesses…if they were held accountable. (Sorry didn’t proofread)

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