LIBERTY, Mo. - Joseph Ortiz is certain of a few things today.
"None of my kids are going to ride the bus anymore," he said. "They better catch him before I do."
Ortiz is talking about the stranger his 15-year-old had to fight to flee from Thursday morning.
His daughter, a sophomore at Liberty High School, says she was walking to the bus stop when a man ran toward her, pulled a knife, and tried to drag her into the woods.
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"I'm pretty sure she was fighting him every bit of the way," Ortiz said.
"My junior would have been at that bus stop when it happened this morning," said Cindi Gabbert, a school bus driver and parent who lives in the neighborhood where people are now scared for their children's safety.
"Now we are replacing all of our locks," said one. "Immediately, I checked the sex-offender website," said another.
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Neighbors are already coming together. One neighbor went and stood with Cindi Gabbert's fourth-grader until her bus got there to pick her up. Others want to get together and work in shifts to make sure an adult is always monitoring those bus stops.
There are three bus stops within blocks of where the teen says she was attacked. Another mother, running late for work today, spoke of the incident through her tears.
"I want her to know I am incredibly proud of her," cried Cheryl McCann. "She was very brave, and I want her to now if she ever needs a ride to school, I'd be more than happy to take her."
"I don't want to imagine what would have happened if she didn't fight," Ortiz said. "She don't want me leaving her side. I'm her protector, and I wasn't there this morning to protect her."
Liberty school district officials said the five-nearest schools kept students inside Thursday. Extra police and security patrolled the area around dismissal times.
Liberty police released a description of the man as in his 40s with a receding hairline and salt and pepper hair. He was wearing a flannel jacket and jeans with paint on them. Contact Liberty police if you have any information that could help.
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