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Police have arrested a man who allegedly attempted to abduct two teenage girls on Long Island, New York, by impersonating a police officer.
Donald Cristiano Jr., 46, is facing charges of kidnapping, endangering the welfare of a child, criminal impersonation and luring a child, Suffolk County Police announced Thursday.
Authorities said that Cristiano on Wednesday approached two teen girls, ages 14 and 16, while driving a white Nissan Xterra and identified himself as a police officer.
He told the girls that he was investigating recent gang activity in the area and offered them a ride to the library so they wouldn’t have to walk alone, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said.
“They did that, they arrived at the library, and he asked the 16-year-old to exit the vehicle so that he could talk to the younger girl,” Bellone said at a press conference on Thursday. “He then drove away with the 14-year-old to Fireman’s Memorial Park in Lindenhurst.”
Bellone described the incident as “every parent’s nightmare,” and said as a father his heart sank when he first heard the report.
“I cannot tell you how disturbing and sickening it is to think about this individual impersonating a police officer in an effort to abduct and assault these young girls,” Bellone said. “It is beyond disturbing.”
Cristiano allegedly grabbed the younger girl’s pants and made inappropriate comments to her, but she was able to escape after a struggle, according to Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart.
“She was able to grab the door handle, kick the door handle, while fighting him off,” Hart said. “She was able to run to a nearby home where the homeowner called 911.”
After Cristiano allegedly drove off from the library, the 16-year-old girl found a crossing guard who had also contacted 911. Police then used surveillance video to identify the car’s make and model and narrowed the ownership to Cristiano’s father based on the car’s “distinctive” stickers.
Cristiano fit the description given to police by the young girls and he was arrested Thursday morning without incident, Hart said.
“If you are ever stopped by an individual who identifies themself as an undercover officer, ask them for identification and their badge,” Hart said. “If you are not comfortable, go to a public place immediately and place a call to 911.”
Inmate information was not yet available for Cristiano on Thursday afternoon. It is unclear if he has retained an attorney.