The Atlanta Police Department is investigating an incident at the Georgia Aquarium in downtown Atlanta, where a girl was nearly abducted.
However, police said it may be a case in which the girl was taken by accident.
Beverly Hromalik, who brought her family from Athens to the aquarium Aug. 4, wrote in a message she posted on Facebook that her 4-year-old daughter was nearly kidnapped by a boy.
“My (daughter) was having a blast looking at all the cool animals,” Hromalik wrote. “In the cold water exhibit, at the tank right before the beluga whales, I was standing about 5 to 6 feet from the tank while watching my 4-year-old stare in awe at the fish. I had my eye on her the entire time, but all of a sudden, she just vanished.”
She then wrote she saw to the left a boy about 12 or 13 years old holding her daughter and running off.
“He had hooked his arms under her armpits and was shielding her from behind so people couldn’t see,” Hromalik wrote. “I only saw a glimpse of her shoe and her arm sticking out as he was running off. I ran after them and caught up to him, grabbing his arm and yelling “WHAT ARE YOU DOING??” He just looked at me blankly, and I kept yelling “WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH MY KID??!!” over and over again while shaking his arm. He finally dropped her, and said, ‘Sorry, I thought she was my sister.’
“I let his arm go and grabbed my child, still yelling at him to not touch my kid again. I then watched as he kept walking in the direction he was originally going. He did not go back to where my child was to find this “sister”. He just kept walking, and got to a middle aged man that was about 20 feet away. They both looked over at me, and then left the area. I saw no other little girl with them. If he had a sister, why didn’t they start looking for her?”
She contacted the aquarium’s security staff about the incident the following day, and then the Atlanta Police were contacted about it. In a preliminary report, the police stated they are investigating the near-kidnapping.
“Atlanta Police investigators are working with aquarium security and an initial review of video shows that the teenager was, in fact, at the aquarium on Sunday with a family that included a girl roughly the same age as Hromalik’s,” the report stated. “Investigators are hoping to identify the family in order to speak with them about the incident. There are no further updates at this time.”
Also in her message, Hromalik criticized the aquarium’s security staff for not helping her when the incident occurred and for saying the aquarium did not have surveillance cameras in the rooms where its exhibits are located.
“If I had not been watching my child for those two seconds it took for her to get grabbed, there is a good chance I would not have been able to find her again,” she wrote.
In an emailed statement responding to the Neighbor’s request for comment on the incident, the aquarium’s public relations department said it believes the near-kidnapping was a case where the boy mistakenly picked up the girl, thinking it was his own sister.
“After reviewing our security camera footage, we were able to locate both families and it appears both girls were similar in appearance, and this could have likely been a mistake on the part of the young boy,” the department stated. “The 4-year-old’s mother was contacted following this development and thanked us for our efforts in giving her peace of mind for her child’s safety. … We have worked with APD to supply all necessary security footage and information. We take any matter involving our guests, staff, and animals’ safety very seriously and have fully cooperated with all parties involved.”
The department also stated the aquarium takes security and safety “very seriously.”
“We have state-of-the-art security monitoring at our entrances and security cameras throughout the building and parking garage,” the department stated. “These cameras are used to monitor the safety of our guests, staff and animals at all times of day. Additionally, security and staff are throughout the building to monitor our entrances, exits, main thoroughfares and to provide assistance to anyone in need. We pride ourselves on being a premier aquatic educational location all while being a safe place for families and friends.”