A man suspected of abducting a 9-year-old girl as she was walking home from school has been arrested.Jose Garcia, 29, was captured while walking near a bus depot in downtown Colorado Springs, about 7½ miles south of the Circle K convenience store where he was last spotted Friday morning.A witness said she a saw a police car traveling north on Nevada Avenue when it made a U-turn and an officer got out to ask for Garcia's ID. Moments later, the man was in handcuffs, witness Tia Martinez said.Martinez said the suspect appeared low-key, walking with his head down, covered by a hoodie."His demeanor was just, he was trying to be under the radar, trying to not get noticed, just trying to skate by without getting caught or seen by anyone," Martinez said.The girl's aunt, Kim Beeman, told 7NEWS that Garcia was the girl's next-door neighbor.
Girl Being Hailed As Courageous
The girl who triggered the Friday morning Amber Alert was found safe at the Circle K around 9 a.m.Witnesses said she had obvious injuries and was visibly shaken."We have a very, very brave, courageous young lady who did things to save her life, and I'm very, very proud of her," said Interim Colorado Springs Police Chief Pete Carey.Colorado Springs police said Garcia and the girl were traveling in a truck when it broke down early Friday near Orchard Path and Woodmen Road. Police said it had a flat tire and looked as if it had been in a crash.A bystander saw their disabled vehicle, picked them up and dropped them off a mile away -- at the Circle K convenience store at Commerce Center Drive and Woodmen Road, Colorado Springs police spokeswoman Barbara Miller said.
The girl ran into the store, asked for the phone, saying she wanted to call her uncle, but she called 911 instead, police said.It was immediately apparent to witnesses in the store that something was wrong."She had two black eyes, a bruised lip, and a bruise on her cheek," said witness Daniel Espinoza. "She was scared. She was in shock.""She was in bad shape. The bruise on her face was enormous," said witness Efrin Villapando. "She just looked a bit disoriented and of course, she told the teller that she was lost."
9-Year-Old Girl Was Defiant, Called 911 Herself
When Garcia walked into the store moments later, the girl was defiant and refused to go anywhere with him, witnesses said.When the man ordered her to listen to him, the 9-year-old stood her ground."I think the guy was trying to get her to leave. And she just said, 'No. I aint going nowhere. I'm waiting right here for my momma,'" Villapando said.Garcia then ran out of the store, witnesses said."I looked the guy dead in the eye and he just spun around and took off," Villapando added.One of the witnesses told 7NEWS that he recognized the girl from the Amber Alert, which was issued around 3:30 a.m. Friday. He also said he was a graduate of Columbian Elementary School -- where the 9-year-old goes to school -- and recognized the school's thunderbolt on her jacket.The girl disappeared while on her way home from Columbian Elementary School Thursday afternoon. Her mother reported her missing when she didn't arrive home.After investigating through the night, Pueblo police asked the Colorado Bureau of Investigation to issue the Amber Alert early Friday and requested assistance from the FBI.
Family With Girl At Hospital
7NEWS was there when the girl's family learned she was found safe Friday morning. The family erupted with joy, and embraced the officer who told them the good news."Thank you, God! Thank you for the media. Thank you for everybody who watched, who kept an eye out for my daughter and brought her home," said Stephanie Cordova, the girl's mother.The girl was released from the hospital Friday afternoon, her aunt said. She is recuperating at another location, her family said."I don't know if you say a young child like that is OK during an experience like this, but they are working with her right now," Colorado Springs police spokeswoman Barbara Miller said.
Garcia Suspected In Molestation Case
Garcia has several arrests for trespassing, driving under the influence, and property damage, according to Colorado court records. He pleaded guilty to trespassing and DUI in 2003. In 2004 and 2009, he was convicted for driving drunk and in 2010 he was found guilty of damaging property.CALL7 Investigators have learned that Garcia is a primary suspect in a molestation case in Pueblo, that occurred earlier this week.
Schools On Lockdown As Police Searched For Garcia
Police officers were under the assumption that when Garcia fled the Circle-K, he was on foot , and would remain in the Colorado Springs area. They went door-to-door notifying businesses, hotels and schools about the manhunt.Colorado Springs School District 20 said three elementary schools -- Woodmen-Roberts, Foothills and Rockrimmon -- were on lockdown as a precaution as officers searched for Garcia.A district spokeswoman said a school on "secured building status" meant that staff and security at the school monitored who came in and out of the school, but students went about their day as usual on campus.View 9-Year-Old Girl Kidnapped in a larger map