Sheriff Chip Simmons of the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office, in the Florida Panhandle city of Pensacola, alleged that the unnamed suspect drove up to the girl in a white van, jumped out of the vehicle and ran towards her holding what police suspected was a bladed weapon.
Police said the 30-year-old suspect grabbed the girl, picked her up and tried to carry her into the van.
“She fought and she fought and she fought until finally she was able to break free from her would-be captor,” Mr Simmons said during a news conference on Tuesday evening, describing the detained man as an “animal” and “dangerous felon”.
Investigators made the arrest after conducting house-to-house searches in the West Pensacola area and identifying the white vehicle shown in CCTV footage approaching the girl.
They said the suspect, whose name was being withheld by officers to avoid jeopardising other related investigations, had repainted the car the same day of the attempted abduction.
Mr Simmons added that the suspects arms were covered with a blue slime which the girl had been playing with as a toy in the moments before she was grabbed.
The suspect, who police said had an “extensive criminal history” including sexual offences, has been charged with attempted kidnapping and aggravated assault with a knife.
“This could have ended very differently,” said Mr Simmons. “Had this 11-year-old girl not thought to fight, and to just never give up, then this could have ended terribly.
“Why else do you think this man stopped this van and tried to pick her up and take her into this van. It doesn't take a genius to figure out what his intentions were.”