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By Devin Rose
A man police arrested Wednesday morning for alleged abduction attempts of Oak Park students just minutes apart may also have been involved in an incident Tuesday afternoon, when another student told police she was followed home from Oak Park and River Forest High School, according to a statement from Oak Park police.
The incidents prompted District 200 officials to keep students on campus during two lunch periods Wednesday for safety precautions. Late Wednesday afternoon, though, school officials announced that with a suspect in custody that Thursday lunch periods were return to normal.
Wednesday morning, around 8:15 a.m., a 16-year-old OPRF High School student was walking in the 100 block of South Taylor Avenue when a man approached her, put his arm around her neck and started pulling her. The girl screamed and bit his finger before pulling away, police said. A passing motorist stopped and the suspect released his hold and walked away.
A 13-year-old was walking in the 700 block of Home Avenue about 25 minutes later on her way to Brooks Middle School when a man came up behind her and placed his hand over her mouth. She screamed and ran toward a passing motorist and the man fled.
Descriptions provided by the victims of the man and his vehicle allowed police to inform neighboring law enforcement agencies, according to the statement. The man was stopped around 9 a.m. on Madison Street in River Forest after he was observed driving erratically by an off-duty Maywood officer. He is being held by Oak Park police as a person of interest pending further investigation by the Cook County State's Attorney's Office, the statement said.
District 200 staff found out around 12:30 p.m. about these two incidents and a third that occurred Tuesday afternoon, said D200 spokeswoman Karin Sullivan. In that incident, an OPRF High School student was walking home from a club meeting at the school when she realized she was being followed. Sullivan said her parent reported the follower was a man who walked from Lake Street down Ridgeland Avenue. The girl went to Julian Middle School, 416 S. Ridgeland Ave., for safety, Sullivan said. A staff member there saw she was being followed as she approached the door, and the staff member called police.
When school officials found out that information, Principal Nathaniel Rouse announced that students would not be allowed off campus for lunch for the next two periods Wednesday afternoon.
Sullivan and District 97 spokesman Chris Jasculca both said an increased police presence and increased patrols of safe walking routes were scheduled around dismissal Wednesday.
The statement said police believe there is no further threat to students. Calls to the department were not returned.