UPDATED: Officials investigating after wandering toddler pulled from side of busy Gilman Springs Road
UPDATE: April 27, 3:30 p.m. See original story and video below.
Riverside County Sheriff’s officials provided an update regarding a toddler who was found wandering along the 34000 block of Gilman Springs Road by a passing motorist yesterday, about 4:30 p.m.
Luis Navarro first spotted the girl, described as about two to three years old, as she was wandering along the busy roadway. He quickly turned his vehicle around, parked nearby and led the young girl to safety, away from the road that was bustling with early, rush-hour traffic.
During the incident, while Navarro was leading the girl back to her home, he posted what was happening live to his Facebook account.
That short, three-minute long post, which has since been viewed more than sixty-five thousand times, showed Navarro leading the girl by the hand, while asking her questions about her family, her age and where she lived.
After returning the wandering child to her parents, Navarro contacted the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department to report the incident and request that deputies check on the child’s welfare.
“Deputies from the Hemet Station received a call regarding a report of a found child,” Riverside Sheriff’s Public Information Officer Sergeant Chris Durham explained in a written press release the day after the incident. “The reporting party found the child on Gilman Springs Road and walked her back to her residence.”
“Deputies responded to a residence…to check on the child’s safety,” said Durham, who indicated sheriff’s investigators were also involved in investigating the incident.
“Investigators interviewed the found child’s parents and other siblings at the residence,” Durham explained. “It appears the child exited the residence while her mother was tending to an infant sibling.”
No further details were released in what Durham described as an “active and ongoing investigation.”
In the sheriff’s press release, Durham made sure to mention Navarro’s intervention in what could have been a story with a very tragic ending, saying, “We are grateful for the quick actions of the passing motorist.”
This afternoon, after being interviewed and filmed by several local television stations, Navarro – who had been leery of speaking with media about the incident from the beginning, saying he didn’t help the girl for publicity – said he was surprised and a bit overwhelmed at all of the positive responses the story about his actions was receiving.
“I never in a million years thought the story could have gotten this much attention,” Navarro said.
After hearing about and seeing all the unexpected praise in social media news groups, such as Facebook’s Hemet News – where the video was first shared – Navarro simply said, “I was blessed with that opportunity to do something right.”
Anyone with additional information regarding this incident is encouraged to contact Investigator Amber Fransik at (951) 791-3400. Callers can refer to incident file number I171160075 and can remain anonymous. Citizens may also submit a tip using the Sheriff’s CrimeTips online form.
ORIGINAL STORY: SAN JACINTO: Wandering toddler pulled from side of busy Gilman Springs Road
SAN JACINTO – Valle Vista resident Luis Navarro received the surprise of his life and became the talk of the Hemet and San Jacinto Valley today when he happened upon a toddler wandering along busy Gilman Springs Road this afternoon.
Navarro first spotted the girl, described as about two to three years old, about 4:30 p.m., on Gilman Springs Road near Knoch Road just east of Olive Avenue and Jack Rabbit Trail. The roadway where the girl was found is in an unincorporated area east of Moreno Valley and northwest of San Jacinto.
Navarro, who says he works as a truck driver, was on his way home when he happened to spot the girl wandering along the side of the busy road.
“I was coming home from work, heading down Gilman Springs Road from the 60 Freeway towards Sanderson Avenue, when I noticed a small child just wandering around out by the road,” Navarro explained about an hour after the scary incident.
As Navarro passed the little girl, he immediately realized the imminent danger she was in as she wandered on the dirt shoulder along the side of the road; which was already busy with early, rush-hour traffic.
“I pulled over as fast as I could, flipped a U-Turn and went back,” Navarro explained. “There was a lot of traffic and I was scared she might run from me right into traffic if I pulled up too close to her, so I pulled into a nearby driveway.”
When Navarro approached the wandering toddler and offered her his hand, she readily took it and followed his lead away from the danger of the bustling roadway, where vehicles were passing at 55 miles per hour or faster.
For his protection and to document his frustration at having found the little girl wandering along the roadway, Navarro immediately began to post the incident live to his Facebook account. (See video below.)
The nearly three-minute long post, which had been viewed over six thousand times within the first four hours, showed Navarro leading the girl by the hand, while asking her questions about her family, her age and where she lived. Navarro is clearly frustrated and angry about having found the girl walking along such a dangerous road, which he inadvertently referred to in the video as nearby Ramona Expressway.
The toddler, who Navarro found partially clothed – wearing only a shirt, panties and patent leather shoes that were on the wrong feet – was clearly distressed and began crying partway through the short video.
With only one home in the rural area, known best for local dairy-farming and nearby Mystic Lake, Navarro walked with the young girl several hundred yards back from the roadway to the residence, hoping to find someone at the home.
Other than an 18-wheel big-rig parked on a nearby street, the home and dairy farm appeared to be abandoned.
“When I knocked on the door there was a kid around 11-years-old who answered the door,” Navarro explained. “He looked like he had just woken up when I knocked on the door.”
The boy confirmed to Navarro that the little girl was his sister so Navarro asked to speak with the children’s parents.
“When I told them that I had found their little girl out on the busy street, they just said, ‘Yeah, she gets out,’ like it was no big deal,” Navarro said. “They just said she must have gotten out while the family was asleep.”
Navarro said he tried to explain to the parents that they needed to watch their daughter better, saying he told them “once they are gone they can’t ever come back,” at which time the parents thanked him for bringing them their daughter back and Navarro reluctantly left the residence.
Navarro explained he was angry about what had happened, but he decided to just walk away because he was worried about the family accusing him of trespassing or causing a problem; however, as he was walking the lengthy distance back to his vehicle, Navarro said he began to feel uneasy about the safety of the little wandering girl, whose name he had never even found out.
Navarro said at that point he decided to contact Riverside County Sheriff’s officials about the incident.
Navarro stated when he last spoke to a deputy, he was told officials were headed to the residence to conduct a welfare check on the girl and the family.
“I just thank God He put me right there, just at that time, to do what was right,” Navarro later said while discussing the incident.
“Some people are saying I was a hero or something,” Navarro modestly stated. “I’m no hero. I think any normal person in their right state of mind would have done the same thing.”
Navarro, who had initially been leery of sharing his story with media explained, “I didn’t do this for publicity or anything. I was just angry at the family and the danger they put that little girl in and thought people should see the things that happen out here.”
“I’m just really surprised nobody else bothered to stop,” Navarro continued. “But God is good!”
“I just hope it was an honest accident and nothing weird is happening in that house, for the sake of that poor little girl,” Navarro concluded.
The Riverside County Sheriff’s Media Information Bureau was contacted for further information regarding this incident as well as any releasable information regarding the outcome of any call to the residence.
This is a developing story. Additional information will be updated as it becomes available.
Luis Navarro video
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Trevor Montgomery runs Riverside County News Source and Shasta County News Source. Additionally, he writes for Riverside County based newspapers, Valley News and Anza Valley Outlook and also writes for Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County.
Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg and breaking his back in an off-duty accident.
During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations, including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center and Lake Elsinore Station, along with other locations.
Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.
Trevor has been married for more than 26 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and has 13 children and 12 – soon to be 13 – grandchildren.