A man is in custody after police in Tennessee say an 11-year-old girl was struck by an SUV and raped by the driver inside the vehicle as she walked to school Monday.
The girl was alone and about a mile from her middle school when she said an SUV hit her at around 7 a.m., Memphis police said in a release.
“He snatched her, put her in the truck, raped her, and then dropped her off over here,” the child’s mother told local reporters.
A passerby recalled stopping to talk to the girl after seeing her crying near a street corner.
“As I stopped to ask her what happened, first thing she said was, ‘I just got raped,’” Cameron Fifer told WMC News. “She was like, ‘I was hit by a truck, a blue truck, and the guy proceeded to rape me.’”
The child’s mother said her daughter was battered and bruised but is expected to be OK, WREG reported.
In a release, police said that several hours after the alleged incident, around 4 p.m., a Santa Fe Hyundai that matched the suspect’s vehicle description was spotted and stopped by an officer about two miles from the scene of the crime.
Inside, police found 20-year-old Larry Ward who was described as matching the suspect’s physical and clothing description, as provided by the child. He was arrested and charged with aggravated kidnapping, rape of a child and aggravated assault for the attack, police said.
Ward has been arrested previously for crimes including burglary and driving with a suspended or revoked license, local TV station WMC News reported.
It’s not clear whether Ward has an attorney. He is scheduled to appear in court on Wednesday, records posted through the Shelby County Sheriff’s website show.
Authorities are, meanwhile, encouraging parents not to allow their children to walk alone.
Memphis Police Director Mike Rallings urged that children use a buddy system if an adult cannot accompany them. He also advised that they carry mace and a cell phone for added protection.
“At any time, I encourage adults and young people to walk in groups if they’re going to and fro,” he told WMC. “Definitely pay attention to your surroundings.”