(LOS ANGELES) — Steep terrain and rough conditions dangerous to K-9 units forced the suspension of a search for a girl or petite woman seen being struck and dragged away by her hair Monday night, officials said.
The victim may have been kidnapped by a man at the El Sereno Recreation Center on the 4900 block of Klamath Street in El Sereno, Calif., located in eastern Los Angeles, according to a 911 caller reporting the incident at 8 p.m. Monday.
Witnesses saw the victim and her alleged assailant arguing, according to reports.
“That argument escalated to the point where the male struck the female at least once in the face and then began to drag her up into the brush area by the hair,” police Lt. Andy Neiman said, according to The Associated Press.
Soon, police launched a thorough search, Los Angeles Police Department Public Information Officer Luiz Garcia told ABC News.
“Helicopters, K-9 units, urban search and rescue, and mounted police officers searched a 350-acre radius around the center, and we involved up to 250 officers to search for the missing victim,” Garcia said.
“We found clothing items including shoes, a shirt and pants that we believe belong to the girl,” Garcia added. “The fact that we found these items made us suspect that the victim may have been sexually assaulted.”
During Monday’s incident, witnesses heard the victim screaming and saw the suspect drag her into the bushes by her hair, Garcia said.
“The girl looked petite to them, so they estimated that she might have been between 13 and 15 years old,” he added.
The witnesses did not interfere with the suspect, but decided to call the police instead, Garcia said. They did not have a cellphone with them so they ran to grab one to call 911.
When they returned to the scene, “they had lost contact with the victim and the suspect,” Garcia said.
So far, the LAPD hasn’t received any reports of missing persons that matched the description of the victim.
El Sereno Recreation Center serves the East Los Angeles community. It is a bustling center with a pool, a public community room, a baseball diamond, basketball and tennis courts, and other amenities.
“It’s very shocking that such an incident would happen at this park given that it’s a really nice and safe place,” said Patricia Solis, a neighborhood resident. “This is a very safe neighborhood and people look out for each other.”
Garcia said that the suspect was described as a Hispanic male between 18 and 20 years old, 6 feet tall, weighing 200 pounds with clean-cut dark hair. He was reported to be wearing a gray shirt and blue jeans at the time of the incident.
Even though the full-scale police search that followed was suspended on Tuesday, the investigation to find the girl and her assailant continued. A command post established next to Wilson High School, located half a mile away from the recreation center, was still operating.
Garcia urged anyone with information about the case to call the Los Angeles Police Department at 1-877-527-2477.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Ray Sanchez, CNN Newswire
Chuck Johnston, CNN Newswire