RED DEER, Alta. – A sixteen-year-old Alberta girl was allegedly abducted just metres away from her own home by a man posing so convincingly as a police officer that he had flashing lights on his car, clothing that looked like a uniform and a gun, say Mounties.
A 56-year-old man from Red Deer, Alta., was charged Monday with aggravated sexual assault, kidnapping with a firearm and posing as a police officer.
The girl is not being named because she is an alleged victim of a sexual assault.
“We believe that the vehicle being operated by the accused was equipped with a red-and-blue flashing light similar to those used by the police, and he also may have worn clothing that gave the appearance that he was a peace officer,” said RCMP Sgt. Patrick Webb.
There were signs the girl left her truck in a hurry after parking it outside the back of her house Thursday night.
Clad only in pyjamas and a coat, she left the house to go to a convenience store near her home in Penhold, just south of Red Deer.
Not long after, her parents found her truck parked at the back of their home with the keys inside and the lights still on. While her purse and the items she bought at the store were also in the truck, her wallet and cellphone were gone.
Webb said he wasn’t sure whether the girl was shown a gun at the time of the alleged kidnapping. The girl didn’t know the man and he wasn’t known to police, he added.
On Saturday night, the girl called her parents, crying and scared, from a Red Deer mall following a massive manhunt by the community and her frantic family. Her father said she had to beg for her life during the two days she was kept captive.
Webb declined to give details on how the girl escaped her abductor, saying it was still being considered by police investigators.
The girl’s mother said Sunday that while her daughter’s experience was horrific and horrible, she was a “very strong girl” and was coping with the ordeal.
It’s rare for someone to pose as a police officer, but people should still be on their guard, said Webb. If someone has doubts about whether an officer is legitimate, they should stay in a safe place and ask for proof.
“We’re asking that they remain behind either a locked door of their house, or stay within their vehicle, and ask to have identification and a badge presented.”
It’s also possible to call 911 and have the dispatcher check whether an officer is in the area.
“We want people to feel safe out there – the whole aspect of police officer contact with members of the public is a matter of trust in so many ways.”
Gerard John Baumgarte is set to make his first court appearance Tuesday in Red Deer.