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Tampa girl, 12, kidnapped from school bus stop

TAMPA — A stranger with a gun forced a 12-year-old girl into his car as she waited for the school bus Wednesday morning, authorities said.

She got away. He didn't.

It happened outside the Cedar Pointe apartments, across Sligh Avenue from a thrumming industrial zone.

The driver approached the bus stop in a gray sedan around 8:25 a.m., according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. He offered her a ride. She said no. He got out, showed a gun, shoved her with an elbow and put her in the car.

He drove about a mile east and a few hundred yards south and stopped in a parking lot at 6708 Harney Road to make a cell phone call.

Authorities said that's when the girl escaped, unhurt, and ran for help at a gas station.

Deputies later showed her a photo lineup, from which she picked a man named Tyrone "Nugget" Rodgers, 38, of no local address. They said she accurately described a tattoo on his neck.

Rodgers was captured Thursday afternoon and charged with battery and false imprisonment. He was held in lieu of $25,000 bail. Sheriff's spokesman J.D. Callaway said Rodgers denied involvement in the crime. The motive was unknown.

Callaway said the Sheriff's Office delayed releasing information about the crime for a day because deputies were still pursuing the suspect and didn't want him to know that, and it took some time to verify the details of what had happened.

Rodgers, a former truck driver from Alabama with a gunshot scar on his left leg, has been arrested nearly 30 times since 1988, state records show. He has faced similar charges twice before.

In 1990, he was charged in Tampa with kidnapping and sexual battery. According to electronic court records, he pleaded no contest to a reduced charge and received 180 days' probation.

In 2000 — after other arrests that included charges of robbery, aggravated battery and possession of cocaine — he was charged with false imprisonment. State attorney's spokesman Mark Cox said Rodgers pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and served 60 days in the county jail.

In July, he was charged with aggravated assault involving a sword, Cox said, but that case was dropped because the victim failed to cooperate.

In Thursday's incident, the girl who escaped is a student at Jennings Middle School. Authorities did not release her name, although school district spokeswoman Linda Cobbe said she attended school Thursday.

A deputy stood guard at the gate to Cedar Pointe as children got off their buses in the afternoon.

"This is real scary," said Lillie Adkins, 54, who has several school-age grandchildren. She was drinking a Cherry Coke Zero on her patio. "You send your kids out to the bus in the morning and people are waiting."

"Her momma should have been at the bus stop with her," said Ella Hunter, 50, another grandmother. "You walk to that stop with them, and you stay there 'til it comes."

Hunter keeps herself safe, too. She won't walk to the mailbox after dark.

Times staff writer Justin George and researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Thomas Lake can be reached at tlake@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3416.

Tampa girl, 12, kidnapped from school bus stop 04/24/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 29, 2008 2:32pm]
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