Facebook posts about attempted kidnapping just ‘misinformation,’ says police chief

PRESIDIO — Last week, rumors swirled among Facebook users in Presidio about an attempted kidnapping at the Big Bend Apartments. Posts shared among city officials asked locals to look out for a “suspicious silver vehicle” roving the streets, “possibly a Chevrolet station wagon or SUV,” per the post on Mayor John Ferguson’s profile. 

Ferguson was the first to sound the alarm around 10:30 p.m. on August 29 after receiving a tip from a resident. “I was contacted through Facebook Messenger by a citizen, they said it looked like somebody was trying to force their way into a residence here at Big Bend Apartments,” he recalled. “I thought, ‘Wow, it’s kind of late at night. Maybe I should just put something out there.’” 

Presidio Police Department Chief Margarito Hernandez was contacted after the mayor’s post started to make the rounds. He got in touch with the mother of the alleged kidnapping targets, who addressed a lot of the questions that had come up as folks around town kept an eye out for the vehicle. Earlier that evening, her kids noticed a man in a silver vehicle parked outside the apartment complex and felt something was off.

The kids panicked and ran inside the house, and the man got out of his vehicle and approached the front door of their residence. Eventually, he turned around and got back in his vehicle. The mother did notice that the vehicle cruised by the house again later that night, but there was no contact or altercation between her children and the man in the silver vehicle. 

Hernandez stressed that no crime had been committed — or as far as he could tell, even attempted. He left his card and number with the mother, but has not been contacted by her again or able to locate the man in the silver vehicle to get his side of the story. 

Had there been an incident, it would have been a first in Hernandez’s career. While kidnappings and missing persons cases occasionally make headlines in Presidio’s much larger sister city, Ojinaga, it’s not a common type of crime on this side of the river. “It’s something all my life we haven’t seen,” he said. 

Mayor Ferguson met with Hernandez later that week and apologized for “jumping the gun” — he wanted to be responsive and reach as many people as possible in case of an emergency. “There may have been another side to the story,” he said. Hernandez told him to reach out to the police department if he received another crime tip from a local. 

In case of a potential kidnapping, Hernandez stressed that parents can help investigators by making a note of a vehicle’s license plate number. “Make sure you get a description of the vehicle, and if you have a cell phone, take a picture,” he said. 

He also stressed that folks should take a second to check their facts before spreading information about a potential crime. “You have to make sure you have true information, because otherwise it can cause a panic within the town,” he said. That kind of panic can amplify interactions between the public and police and make a sketchy situation even more dangerous.

According to the Texas Center for the Missing, 33,774 children went missing in the state last year. The majority of those missing children were runaways — different types of abductions accounted for 20% of the missing children cases. Most child abductions are committed by family members; less than 1% of abducted children were taken by total strangers. 

In their educational materials, the Texas Center for the Missing provides some tips to help prevent and handle these types of crimes: keeping up-to-date photos of your children and teaching them how to contact law enforcement during an emergency are important steps to make investigations easier. The organization also advises parents to keep track of kids’ internet habits and accompany them as much as possible when in public. “Most crimes involving children are crimes of opportunity,” reads one educational pamphlet for parents.