Eckerdt said the girls were involved in an incident with a man in a truck, but he did not try to abduct them, nor was there any kind of an attack. The chief declined to provide details of the girls’ revised account, citing a continuing investigation, but he did say police do not think the man is dangerous.
“We’re still seeking to identify who that male is; however, we don’t believe that he poses a risk,” Eckerdt said.
The news of the abduction attempt was widely distributed: Powell police reached out to regional law enforcement agencies with a teletype alert containing the girls’ description of the man; a Cody Police Department Facebook post containing the description was shared more than 1,100 times; and Powell school district and Northwest College officials sent out alerts the day after the report.
Eckerdt said police received many tips from the public and from law enforcement agencies elsewhere in Wyoming and in neighboring states such as Montana and Colorado. He said law enforcement — from Powell police to Cody police and the Park County Sheriff’s Office — spent many hours investigating.
Eckerdt said he didn’t know whether the juveniles would be cited for making a false report; the chief said the department wants to find a balance between rewarding them for ultimately being honest and holding them accountable for the seriousness of the initial untrue report.
Eckerdt said police followed up with the girls in part because of inconsistencies in their stories and contradictions between each other.
“Even though we had doubts in this investigation, we never avoided the investigation to focus on the doubts,” he added.
Eckerdt said the department will not change its approach as a result of the incident.
“We will treat every case like this, as it’s real, until we find out differently,” Eckerdt said. “The cost and the risk is far too high to make any assumptions.”
While the report turned out to be false, Eckerdt said it’s still a good time for parents to talk to their children about safety. He suggested talking about who are trusted adults, where children can find safe places and what to do if their cell phone doesn’t work.
“We’re all relieved this didn’t happen. However, let’s not ignore the opportunity to have the discussion,” Eckerdt said.