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Kidnapped girl, 9, hailed as hero for rescuing herself

January 23, 2012 |  2:36 pm

A 9-year-old girl kidnapped last week while walking home from school escaped by seizing a window of opportunity in a Colorado Springs, Colo., convenience store.

When her captor took her into the store, the girl began screaming, "I'm not going anywhere with you. I'm waiting for my mom!" She also marched up to the convenience store clerk, asked to use the phone and then called 911. Witnesses, shocked, turned to look at the man who had brought the girl into the store.

"I looked at the guy, he looked at me, into my eyes, spun around and just high-tailed it out of there," witness Efrin Villapando told ABC News.

"The best news is that despite the traumatic ordeal ... she became a hero and rescued herself by calling 911 once she realized she had that window of opportunity," according to the Colorado Springs Police Department.

ABC News interviewed the girl as she sat alongside her parents. Asked where she got the courage to outwit her captor, the girl said, "I got my fight from Daddy," and that he had taught her to "stand up for myself."

The story has a happy ending, but it doesn't erase the trauma suffered by the girl, as evidenced by two black eyes and other bruises on her body.

The girl was abducted Thursday while walking home from school in Pueblo, Colo. Her frantic parents contacted authorities, who issued an Amber Alert, but it would be more than 18 hours before they heard from the child, when she called 911.

Authorities believe that the suspect, Jose Garcia, 29, used his truck to kidnap the girl and keep her for several hours. The truck broke down Friday morning and a passerby picked up Garcia and the girl and gave them a ride to the store. Police say the passerby had no idea what was going on.

Garcia was later found at a bus stop about 10 miles from the store. Pueblo police Sgt. Darren Velarde said Garcia is being held on suspicion of kidnapping and could face a charge of sexual assault on a child, the Associated Press reported.

Although the ABC News interview with the girl and her parents make it difficult to now protect the girl's identity, it's the policy of the L.A. Times to withhold names of sexual assault victims. Similarly, many news outlets that had identified the girl stopped doing so as the possibility of a sexual assault charge was raised.

Pueblo County court records indicate that Garcia is wanted for suspicion of kidnapping and sex assault on a child, allegations that involved Garcia's 9-year-old former stepdaughter, according to the AP.

Authorities are investigating whether there is a connection between the two 9-year-old girls, who  attend the same elementary school.

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-- Rene Lynch
Twitter / renelynch

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