Police explain the wait to sound alarms with Friday’s double school safety incidents

Published: Aug. 30, 2022 at 11:43 AM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Sioux Falls police explained why officers did not publicly sound alarms on the same day staff spotted the lurking school suspect at two different schools.

On Monday, the Sioux Falls School District sent a letter to parents and staff saying staff spotted a suspicious suspect at two different Sioux Falls schools on Friday. The suspect had tried to talk to a child, but a staff member was able to intervene, and the suspect left. The letter said police knew who the suspect was, and officers were working to locate him.

Later Monday, police announced the arrest of suspect Anthony Vincent Lewis, a 54-year-old man from Springfield, SD, who faces charges of Enticing a child under 14, Kidnapping, and Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor.

Police spokesman Sam Clemens said that the two incidents involving Lewis were not immediately thought to be related because they were investigated by different officers just hours apart. The officer investigating the second incident from Friday afternoon eventually pieced together that the two cases were related, which helped in narrowing down Lewis as the suspect over the weekend and led to his arrest Monday afternoon.

When asked why police did not release information about Friday’s incidents or the suspect sooner, Clemens said that police were not sure of what Lewis was trying to do aside from verbally enticing them to follow him, noting that Lewis never touched or grabbed a child to force them to comply physically. With investigators unsure of Lewis’ intentions, combined with not immediately realizing that these were related incidents, police decided not to release more information to avoid “unnecessary concern” among parents.

Clemens said that School Resource Officers in the area were aware of Friday’s incidents and were on alert at their respective schools for a similar situation. Clemens also said that this is a good opportunity for parents to talk with their children about what to do in a similar situation involving strangers who approach.