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Report of girl's abduction in El Sereno prompts major search

Teams uncover leggings and a pair of tennis shoes, but no victim, as they scour the area around the El Sereno Recreation Center. The initial calls came in about 8 p.m. Monday.

November 14, 2012|By Wesley Lowery, Los Angeles Times
  • Members of the Los Angeles Police Department's mounted platoon descend after searching a hillside behind the El Sereno Recreation Center in the El Sereno area of Los Angeles.
Members of the Los Angeles Police Department's mounted platoon descend… (Gary Friedman / Los Angeles…)

More than 250 rescue workers and volunteers trekked through brush and steep terrain in El Sereno on Tuesday after police received reports of a teenage girl dragged away by a kidnapper, screaming and kicking.

By late afternoon, search teams had uncovered leggings and a pair of Puma tennis shoes but found no other signs that the girl was abducted, Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said.

"While we have located some physical evidence that supports the abduction, we have not found any evidence that the young lady is still in the park," Beck said at a news conference.

The search was called off about 4:30 p.m. after rescuers had covered more than 455 acres around the El Sereno Recreation Center. Authorities were not planning to resume the search, but LAPD detectives would continue investigating, according to police.

"I'm not in the 'hope for the best' business," Beck said. "I'm in the 'plan for the worst' business."

Two witnesses phoned police about 8 p.m. Monday to report what seemed to be an abduction and assault at the recreation center, at 4721 Klamath St.

They reported a girl, between the ages of 13 and 15, being dragged into the brush that surrounds the park by a man who appeared to be between the ages of 18 and 21, police said.

Those reports sparked the large-scale rescue operation, even though no young girl matching the victim's description had been reported missing in the area. Late Tuesday, authorities released a composite sketch of the man.

The baseball field at the center was transformed into a parking lot for dozens of police cruisers, firetrucks and other rescue vehicles. Mounted officers scaled the park's hilly terrain while search dogs sniffed for any sign of the girl.

The Los Angeles Fire Department and Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department helped coordinate the effort, authorities said.

Search and rescue teams from Malibu, Sierra Madre and San Dimas also joined the operation, which began Monday night and resumed at daylight Tuesday.

"Our guiding principle in all of this is thinking: What would you want us to do if that were your sister or your daughter?" said Lt. Andy Smith of the LAPD. "When we leave here, it will be because we're sure there's no one out there."

Times staff writer Robert J. Lopez contributed to this report

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