A 13-year-old boy abducted at gunpoint from a school bus stop Friday morning made a "miraculous" escape hours later, authorities said. The gunman was still being sought.
Clay Moore wasn't hurt except for scratches and scrapes, Sheriff Charlie Wells said. Clay was still being interviewed, and the sheriff declined to comment on what happened while the boy was alone with his captor.
"He was bound, he was able to get free," Wells said. "It was miraculous, to tell you the truth."
Clay was standing with about a dozen children and was closest to the gunman's red truck when he was taken at gunpoint about 9 a.m., Wells said.
The boy was bound and taken to a wooded area. After being left alone, Clay managed to free himself and walk until he found a farm worker with a cell phone. He called his mother about 1:30 p.m.
'Smart little guy'
"It's a happy ending," Wells said. "(The parents) are relieved, and we are too."
Clay's uncle, Gregory Moore, said the family was "overjoyed."
"We all said all along that if there was a way out, Clay would find it," Moore said. "He's an ingenious, smart little guy. It didn't surprise me."
The focus now is on capturing the "coward" who committed the crime, Wells said. He said authorities were investigating reports that a similar truck had followed other children in the area recently.
Parrish, about 30 miles southeast of St. Petersburg, has seen explosive growth in recent years but still has many rural areas. The bus stop where the abduction occurred was at the entrance to a subdivision of relatively new homes off a rural road in eastern Manatee County.
Truck was seen earlier
Rabah Jaffal, 14, was at the bus stop and later described the gunman as being in his 20s or 30s with black hair. He pulled up in an extended cab pickup truck, showed the gun and ordered Clay to get in, Rabah said.
"He like pulled it out and started aiming, and Clay just thought that, 'If he shoots it I'm gone, so I might as well get into the truck,'" said Rabah, adding that he recognized the truck as one that followed his sister in their neighborhood about two months ago.
Margi Nanney, spokeswoman for the county school district, said this is the first time anyone can remember that a student has been taken off the street here.
"I can tell you as a parent you put them in the hands of the Lord when they walk out the door," she said. "And you know most people are good people. You like to think that we don't have a lot of people out there like the one who took this child."
Wells said he and his agency were bracing for "everybody's worst nightmare."
"It's a burden off our shoulders," he said.