Helicopters, bloodhounds and police on horseback and foot are searching today for a teenage girl or a small woman who was heard screaming and may have been kidnapped in the El Sereno area, authorities said.
The calls reporting a screaming victim being dragged up into a hillside area around 4900 Klamath St., near the El Sereno Recreation Center, started coming at 7:52 p.m. Monday, said Officer Bruce Borihanh, a Los Angeles Police Department spokesman.
A command post for the search has been set up near the intersection of Klamath Street and Eastern Avenue, according to Sgt. Karen Stanwix, the watch commander at the LAPD’s Hollenbeck Station.
The possible victim was thought to be a girl of between 13 and 16 or a small woman, said Cmdr. Andy Smith, another LAPD spokesman.
“Witnesses reported seeing a (female) screaming as she was being dragged up into the hillside by a man believed to be between 18 and 20 years-old,” Borihanh said. Officers from the LAPD’s Hollenbeck Division were sent to the scene to search the area, but the air search was suspended about 11 p.m., and restarted at daybreak.
Lt. Andy Newman told reporters they are “taking the reports very seriously.” He told KTLA’s Wendy Burch that two separate sets of witnesses, who are not related, gave very similar reports and descriptions of the victim and her assailant. They described the suspect as an 18-20 year-old male Hispanic, 6 foot-tall and 200 lbs, wearing jeans and a grey t-shirt.
Witnesses told police they saw the man rip off the woman’s clothes.
Officers found some leggings and tennis shoes near the reported site of the abduction and brought in bloodhounds and helicopters to search the area, which is more than 350 acres, Borihanh said.
“We have a big concern about this one,” Newman said earlier today.
Police have closed off the entrance to Ascot Park, part of the search area bounded by Eastern Avenue. They are conducting a grid search of the area described by Newman as “very rugged with several canyons.” LA County Sheriffs and search and rescue personnel from San Diego are helping with the operation. LAPD called in its mounted police unit and more bloodhounds to aid their search.
Police say they have no clue about the identity of the possible kidnapping and assault victim.
“We have not received any missing person’s report that matches the description of the girl but we are treating this as serious and responding with an abundance of caution,” Borihanh said.
Update 11-13-12: Police called off their search around 3:30 p.m. today without finding the possible kidnap victim or a suspect.
“So that is good news. The last thing we want to do is find remains in this remote location,” LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said. “This case has been actively worked by over 250 personnel from agencies all over the Southern California area.”
Beck said police responded in force to the reported abduction – with help from the Sheriff’s Department, Fire Department and other agencies.
Some information in this report is from City News Service.