LOS ANGELES (AP) — More than 20 Los Angeles detectives are hunting for two men who grabbed a 10-year-old girl from her bedroom before dawn and held her for nearly 12 hours before dropping her off at a hospital near her San Fernando Valley home, police said.
LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith asked for the public's help in finding the men Thursday, saying they believe strangers took the girl to several locations in different cars.
The girl was found with cuts and bruises on her face and told police she did not know the men, Smith said.
She had been awake for much of her ordeal and has been resting at home and is going to be re-interviewed by detectives later Thursday, he said.
Meanwhile, police were canvassing the area's prolific number of surveillance cameras, checking local registered sex offenders, and digging into any possible clues related to the girl's family, acquaintances and Internet contacts.
While parents should be cautious, there are no other serial kidnappings in Los Angeles and such kidnappings are exceedingly rare in the United States.
"Right now we're looking at this as an abduction, a stranger abduction, one of those things that's very, very rare in this country but does happen," Smith said.
Police said one of the men was about 18 years old but they released no description of the other.
At the hospital where she had been treated, the girl told investigators the men held her for nine or 10 hours, police Capt. William Hayes said.
Police believe two vehicles were involved in the abduction and officers have recovered one of them, Hayes said. Investigators have cordoned off several crime scenes including houses and a storage facility in the investigation and manhunt.
"We have a 10-year-old girl that's been traumatized here. She was forcibly taken from her home," Hayes said. "If these individuals are brazen enough to do that, I'm putting all the resources I have to make sure they don't do it again."
The girl's parents reported her missing just before 4 a.m. More than 11 hours later, someone who recognized her from media reports spotted her outside a Starbucks shop and summoned police officers who happened to be nearby, police Capt. Kris Pitcher said at an earlier news conference.
Police later learned the girl had been dropped off at a hospital a few blocks away and had wandered to the area around the coffee shop, Hayes said.
The girl was wearing an oversized white T-shirt and was barefoot when she was found.
Her parents reported that she had been wearing a black T-shirt emblazoned with characters from the TV show "Heroes" when they last saw her in her bedroom shortly after midnight, police spokesman Richard French said. When they checked on her a few hours later, she was gone.
There were no clear signs of forced entry into the house, Hayes said, but a gate outside that had been closed was left open and investigators believe the men somehow made their way in through the back of the house.
Police released the girl's name, description and a photo in an urgent campaign seeking the public's help in spotting the child with distinctive long red hair. After she was found, police asked media to stop using the name and photo.
Smith said the request came "due to the confidentiality of her being a juvenile and her being the victim of a serious crime," and at the request of her parents.