“Within a blink of an eye, something could happen to your children”
KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) – A Kingsport man is behind bars after an attempted abduction in the 3900 block of Skyland Drive last Thursday, according to police.
Kingsport police charged Tonie Hammonds, 58, with attempted especially aggravated kidnapping, aggravated burglary, and simple assault.
“The investigation revealed that a 12-year-old boy was mowing his yard when a vehicle drove by,” said Kingsport Police Department Public Information Officer Tom Patton. “The vehicle returned soon thereafter pulled into the driveway, and an individual got out of that vehicle, approached the boy, ran toward him, yelled: ‘Come here boy!’ and then the boy actually ran away. And he, the guy, chased him into his garage, through his garage. The child got into the house and then the subject actually tried to gain entry into the house forcibly and was ultimately unsuccessful in doing that. The child’s mother was in the house. She threatened to call the police, of course, she did call the police, but when he heard that threat, then he fled the area before we got there, we of course obviously conducted a full investigation, searched for the suspect percent able to identify him.”
Hammonds was arrested without incident two days later on Saturday, Patton explained.
A neighbor recalled feeling chills as she watched the incident unfold while playing with her own kids just across the street from the attempted kidnapping.
“I was outside with my little one just playing in the front yard and I saw the maroon car drive past, and the guy looked at me, and I saw him pulling into my neighbor’s driveway and he was like a few – what I would say a few minutes – and I saw him drive by the other way just super, super fast, and I just thought to myself ‘well, he’s kind of running away from something,’ and then I actually went back and I got ready, went to the store and when I got back, there was a cop, and I had asked what happened and they had told me that their child, you know, that somebody attempted to take him,” said Maria Guzman, a neighbor of the victim.
Police told News Channel 11 they believe this to be an isolated incident.
“Well, first and foremost at this time we have absolutely no reason based on what we know to think this is anything other than an isolated incident, we don’t we don’t think this was a series of crimes don’t think at the end we do think it’s very very isolated,” Patton said.
He explained that while attempted kidnappings are not as rare, they do not usually involve children or strangers, as was the case on Skyland Drive.
“It’s very, very rare for something like this to happen, not necessarily unusual to see a kidnapping charge but it’s typically more in a domestic situation where maybe an abusive husband refuses to let his, his wife or girlfriend, you know, call the police or refuses to let her leave the house in a situation like this where a complete stranger attempts to abduct child, almost unheard of very rarely happens in Kingsport,” Patton said.
Police say another man was in the vehicle with Hammonds but he is not facing charges as they believe he did not know what Hammonds was planning.
Patton advised that parents learn from this incident and take care when kids are playing outside.
“If your kids are outside playing probably safer in the backyard than the front yard, if they are in the front yard probably a good idea to be out there with them. Obviously, take the age of the child involved in this case it was a 12-year-old which you would think would be okay to be outside playing by himself but again, no matter the age, you can’t be too safe,” he said.
He said that parents should teach their children not to talk to strangers and when confronted by a stranger, to follow the lead of the 12-year-old in this case.
“Just being aware of where your kids are and keeping an eye on them and teaching them what to do, or teaching them not to talk to strangers, teaching them that if a stranger approaches them, to come back inside, pretty much exactly what this boy did in this case. If he’d stayed out and had a conversation with this guy, might have been totally differently, whereas he went inside to the safety of his home and safety of his mom and it worked out better so, I think you’re doing what this child is a good, good role model for,” Patton pointed out.
But that doesn’t make it any easier for the parents of Skyland Drive.
“Absolutely terrifying. I mean, it’s just sad that our children are no longer safe in their own home,” Guzman said.
Guzman explained that it will be difficult to keep her kids from playing outside.
“My kids love playing in the front yard and after that happened, I’m just thinking, you all need to stay out of sight. If you need to play outside, we’re gonna be in the backyard and after that day, I’m just thinking of every way possible to keep them safe,” she said.
She said she is afraid to let her children play outside without her supervision even for a minute.
“I mean, I guess, you know, it’s just hard, because sometimes we’re outside and we walk in just for the slightest minute to get something and not knowing that, you know, within a blink of an eye, something could happen to your children so I guess just always keep an eye on your children as best as you can,” Guzman said.
Patton also added that they do not believe that Hammonds’ attempted crime has anything to do with the missing Hawkins County 5-year-old, Summer Wells.
“We are operating at this point, under the understanding that this was an isolated incident, we believe it was isolated, we don’t have any reason to believe it was connected to any other cases in the area,” he said.
Patton said they have yet to determine a motive for Hammond’s attempt to take the 12-year-old boy and that he remains in jail without bond.