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Man arrested on suspicion of assaulting Sonoma student walking to school

A man was arrested Tuesday morning on suspicion of abducting and sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl walking to a middle school in Sonoma and of attempting to abduct another girl in the area, authorities said.

A student at Altimira Middle School told staff members Tuesday that she had been abducted and assaulted by a man in a car while she was walking to school that morning, Sonoma Valley Unified School District Superintendent Socorro Shiels said in a statement.

School staff called 911 about 8 a.m. to report the incident, the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement. About the same time, dispatchers received another call that a man with a similar description had tried to abduct another girl from the same school. The girl fought off the man and escaped, Sonoma County sheriff’s spokeswoman Misti Wood said in an email.

Authorities searched the area around Altimira Middle School and spoke with the two victims. Deputies arrested a suspect, a Sonoma County man in his late 40s whose identity was not released Tuesday because he had not been booked into the Sonoma County Jail, Wood said. It was too early to tell if the suspect had any connection to Altimira Middle School, Wood said.

Wood declined to provide further details about the two incidents Tuesday night.

Investigators are “confident” the man who was arrested is the only suspect. Deputies will be doing extra patrols in the area of the middle school over the next week because of the two incidents.

Shiels did not respond to a request for comment about the incidents and the school district’s director of human resources, Andrew Ryan, directed all inquiries to the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office.

The Sheriff’s Office recommended students walk to school in pairs or groups, be aware of their surroundings and call 911 if they see anything suspicious.

You can reach Staff Writer Chantelle Lee at 707-521-5337 or chantelle.lee@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @ChantelleHLee.

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