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St. George police looking for suspicious man, say schoolchildren are not in danger

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 20 2013 5:18 p.m. MDT

A man who reportedly went into a St. George elementary school on Monday and asked for the addresses of all the other elementary schools in the area has raised concern among some parents.

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ST. GEORGE — Two men caused a small scare in St. George on Monday and Tuesday after reportedly asking about the area's elementary schools.

By Tuesday afternoon, the vehicle the men were allegedly driving had been found in Southern California and a couple of individuals were being questioned by Homeland Security investigators, said St. George Police Sgt. Sam Despain.

No one had been arrested as of Tuesday afternoon.

The incident began about 2 p.m. Monday when two men walked into Paula’s Restaurant, 745 Ridgeview Drive, and asked for the locations and addresses of area schools.

"These men did not eat at the restaurant but only inquired about the schools," Despain said.

The men, described as being of Middle Eastern descent, wore long-sleeved shirts, gloves and sunglasses, though the temperature was over 100 degrees. A restaurant employee directed the men to Coral Cliffs Elementary School, 2040 W. 2000 North, but then called police after thinking their actions were suspicious.

At the elementary school, the men again asked for the address of other elementary schools in the area, said Washington County School District Superintendent Larry Bergeson.

The men wouldn't say why they wanted that information, Bergeson said. And school employees told them if they wanted that information, they could look it up online.

"It just seemed odd," he said of the encounter. "He wouldn't give a lot more information, then just left."

The school employees got a description of the men's vehicle and license plate number as they drove away and called police.

St. George police began looking for a white 2004 Honda Odyssey minivan with lime green accent stripes on the sides and California license plate 6PCY687. Bergeson was told by investigators it's registered to a 50-year-old man.

As a precaution, extra police officers were at the elementary schools Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning, with officers also making extra patrols past the school during the day.

"There was enough concern that it was felt we wanted to have police presence at each of our elementary schools in Washington County," Bergeson said.

Schools in Iron County were also alerted, he said. But as of noon Tuesday, there were no other reported encounters with the man.

"(The) police department is fairly certain he's no longer in the area, in fact, long gone from here," Bergeson said.

Parents have expressed their concerns on social media, prompting the school district to post a message on its website.

"Washington County School District is taking the necessary precautions to ensure student safety. School will be conducted as usual with safety precautions in place," according to the district's statement.

"The kids are not in any danger. We have nothing to believe that there's any type of danger whatsoever," Despain said. "I know that people on Facebook have really taken off with this and jumped to a lot of conclusions, but I can't confirm any of that.

"No crimes have been committed, and at this point it is being investigated as a suspicious incident. At this time there is no information that leads law enforcement to believe that anyone in the community or in our schools is in danger," Despain said.

Anyone with information on the men or their vehicle can call police at 435-627-4300.

Email: preavy@deseretnews.com

Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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