(Editor's note: This story was updated with new information at 7:45 a.m. today. Mirror reporters are working on a followup for our print edition, which will appear Thursday.)
By Greg Bock
By Russ O'Reilly
An alleged abduction attempt of an Altoona Area Junior High School student has led to a registered sex offender who police have labeled a "person of interest," police said.
Police said late Tuesday night that Brian Scott Lawrence Jr., 23, of 1401 Washington Ave., a sex offender who is listed on the state's Megan's Law website, was taken into custody Tuesday afternoon but has not been charged with any crimes related to the report by a junior high girl that a man attempted to kidnap her as she walked along the 1700 block of Seventh Avenue at 7:29 a.m. Tuesday on her way to school.
Atoona police Detective Matthew Starr said late Tuesday that while Lawrence is at this time not charged in connection to the alleged incident, Lawrence is under arrest for a technical violations related to his supervision by the state parole and probation officers.
Lawrence is a 10-year sex offender after pleaded guilty in a 2009 indecent assault and burglary case, records show. In February, Lawrence was charged and jailed for failing to comply with the law's registration requirements and was sentenced in June to 3 to 23 months in jail.
Lawrence's labeling as a person of interest was a step back from hours earlier when a warrant was issued for his arrest on charges that included attempted kidnapping, simple assault and failure to comply with Megan's Law's registration requirements.
Lawrence was arrested up by police at 1:45 p.m. At Washington Avenue and 16th Street and taken in for questioning, but by 9 p.m., police had downgraded his status as a suspect in the case to that of a person of interest. Police said he was taken to Blair County Prison to await proceedings related to the alleged parole and probation violation, Starr said.
"We are investigating numerous leads that were associated with the possible abduction," Starr said. "The investigation is ongoing."
Starr urged residents to be aware of their surroundings, to stay alert for suspicious persons and that students should walk to school in groups. Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call Altoona police at 949-2489, Starr added.
Starr said police are withholding the girl's age for now, as well as certain details of the alleged kidnapping attempt but he did say no vehicle was involved.
The student reported the alleged incident to school administrators , district spokeswoman Paula Foreman said.
"Administrators immediately got school police services involved, Altoona Police were notified," Foreman said. The alleged, attempted abduction occurred at 6th avenue and 17th street-a busy area in morning hours, Foreman said.
The district notified parents of the attempted abduction with a mass email.
to parents of a district police investigation of a gun concern reported by an Altoona Area Junior High School student on Oct. 12.
Prior to notifying parents, police conducted interviews with the suspected student and the student's guardians and no gun threat was found, Foreman said.
The district did not use its phone notification system to notify parents of the gun concern or the attempted abduction.
"Our emergency notification system we want to use it only in times of absolute emergency," Foreman said. "I understand parents want to be notified, but you don't want to incite fear. We'd all be in a corner sucking our thumbs, not wanting to go outside."
The district tested the emergency phone system in August during an active shooter drill in the high school. All parents of children in the district received a test phone message.
"We don't want the emergency phone notification to be so commonplace that it is dismissed," she said.
A Megan's Law web search shows 67 sex offenders not including incarcerated offenders live in Altoona.
The alleged abduction attempt occurred almost exactly one year after the Mirror covered an Altoona Area Junior High School parent addressing the school board about bus transportation for his child, saying a search of the Megan's Law website found 10 convicted sex offenders living within a 1-mile radius of his home and the junior high school.
In accordance with state law, the district does not provide bus transportation to secondary students living within a two-mile radius of school.
Foreman said Tuesday that the district will continue to provide transportation as planned.
Aside from a judge's orders, there are no boundaries for sex offender residences, city police said last year.
Mirror Staff Writer Greg Bock is at 946-7458.