ARTESIA, N.M. (KRQE) - Parents in southeastern New Mexico have been panicking after reports that someone has been approaching kids outside of an elementary school.
Police and school officials say it was a misunderstanding, but it still has a lot of parents on edge.
Two girls from Central Elementary School in Artesia approached a male in a black truck last week, parked in front of the school.
"They didn't know whether or not he was waving them over, or waving at them, or what exactly he was doing," explained Sergeant Lindell Smith, of the Artesia Police Department.
Police said the kids thought he was an uncle, and when they realized it was a stranger, they went back toward the school and told a teacher.
The truck drove away, but did not speed off, Smith added. School officials said student safety is a concern, and that they always have teachers present before and after school, monitoring the children.
Later, another incident was reported from Zia Middle School, where a man allegedly grabbed a child's shoulders near the school but then walked away toward a black truck.
Since then, police said the rumor mill has spread about an attempted kidnapping.
"Either way, you think about it and it's scary, because you got children in school, you never know what could happen," said one parent, who did not wish to be identified. "It may be a small town, but something could happen."
The concerned mom said she received a letter from one school warning parents. In it, police stated, "if parents see a black truck with a dent in the door at or around schools or other places where children gather, they are advised to call the Artesia Police Department so officers can come and attempt to identify the occupant(s)."
Smith said since then, the suspicious truck driver was identified from school surveillance footage, and that it was all a misunderstanding.
"It seems as though perhaps either the driver, or the kids or maybe both of them, thought that it was somebody else and then they just went their separate ways," said Smith.
Still, the warning sparked one mom to get her 8-year old a whistle and a cell phone with a GPS. The mom told KRQE News 13 she's also keeping a close eye on her daughter before and after school and driving her to the bus stop.
"She's got all the children around here, the older ones that walk with her, but I would rather be right there next to her in case something did happen," the mother said.
While Smith said there hasn't been a crime in this case, they want parents and teachers to warn kids about strangers. He said there's also a high police presence in school zones before and after school.
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