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12-year-old remembers class lesson, avoids man

Four years ago, Michael Prado attended an assembly at Ada Givens Elementary School that taught him to resist unwelcome advances from strangers. The advice paid off this week as the 12-year-old foiled an attempt to abduct him in the Fahrens Park area.

Prado, 12, now a seventh-grader at Rivera Middle School, took part in the "Stranger Danger" program, met McGruff the Crime Dog and saw a video warning against childhood abductions at Givens School while a third-grader.

His mother, Cherish Asher, is thankful he paid attention that day.

"I fear for those children every day. I'm so scared for them. I hope to God these kids are either smart or lucky," she said.

Prado went out to the family's garbage can Sunday about 7:30 p.m. to empty a vacuum container when he heard a man in a black sport utility vehicle beckon him to his car to help look for his lost dog. The boy froze for a moment, remembered what to do, then walked fast to his front door as the man screamed, "Get back here!"

"I'm not sure whether to be angry or scared. It was so unbelievable. I'm so proud of my son for doing the right thing. With no adults you can't even be in your front yard. They need to catch that person," Asher said.

Lt. Andre Matthews of the Merced Police Department is in charge of the police-school partnership program and intends to bring McGruff and his safety message back to local students. Ada Givens School Principal Connie Hadley remembers that assembly four years ago and would like to revive those safety programs.

"What we did is worthwhile. It's something we might want to resurrect," Hadley said.

Prado lives only two blocks from Rivera School but decided he wants a ride to school now rather than walk like he used to do.

"He doesn't want to walk to school. If I have to call a cab, I will. It's sad," Asher said.

Prado took advantage of an offer to talk to a Rivera Middle School counselor after the incident. Matthews said officers took a report Sunday night and returned to the Fahrens Park area to check out a report of suspicious activities in the area.

On Sept. 5 at about 3:05 p.m., a man tried to abduct a 10-year-old boy on East Donna Drive near Peterson Elementary School. In this incident, the man was driving an older black car with ripped seats and a sunroof, and Matthews doesn't believe the two incidents are connected.

Matthews reminds parents to talk to their children and tell them not to talk with strangers and go the other way when a strange vehicle appears.

Associate Editor Doane Yawger can be reached at 209-385-2485 or dyawger@mercedsun-star.com.

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