Federal agents aiding in the multi-state search for a kidnapped Philadelphia woman released supermarket security video Wednesday of a man they say is a person of interest taken hours before the abduction.
The video shows a man in a knit cap and dark coat walking down an aisle of a Philadelphia store and using a self-checkout station. A timestamp indicates the video was recorded eight hours before Carlesha Freeland-Gaither disappeared.
Captain James Smith of the Philadelphia police department said the person shown is believed to be the same person shown on earlier images from a Maryland bank and gas station mini-mart. He said officials were trying to enhance the video and employ facial recognition software to identify the man.
Freeland-Gaither, 22, was seen on surveillance video being grabbed by a man and pulled toward a car Sunday night as she struggled to get away in Philadelphia’s Germantown neighborhood.
Philadelphia police are searching for the man shown in earlier video and still images using Freeland-Gaither’s bank card and walking through a convenience store Monday morning in Maryland, where the woman once live.
Authorities said Tuesday they do not know who the man is. They were seeking the public’s help in identifying him as the woman’s relatives tearfully pleaded for her return.
It was unclear if he was the same man seen in the supermarket video.
The FBI said Tuesday it’s offering a $25,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of a suspect. Local officials previously pledged $17,000 in rewards.
Freeland-Gaither’s grandmother, Ana Mulero, told The Associated Press the woman had lived with her in Maryland for several years and still has acquaintances there. But she said she didn’t recognize the man in the photos.
Chief Inspector Dennis Wilson said Philadelphia police are working with Maryland authorities and the FBI to search the area.
Freeland-Gaither, a nursing assistant at Presbyterian Hospital in Philadelphia, had graduated from high school in Maryland and lived with her grandfather in Philadelphia until a couple of months ago, when she moved in with her boyfriend, relatives said.
Freeland-Gaither worked with cancer patients and was pursuing a career in nursing, Mulero said.
Police said they were unsure if Freeland-Gaither might have known her abductor or whether there was more than one person involved.
A witness called 911 at about 9:40 p.m. Sunday and reported seeing a woman identified as Freeland-Gaither screaming for help as she was forced into a dark gray four-door vehicle.
Police said Freeland-Gaither’s glasses and cellphone were dropped on the street, near piles of broken auto glass.
The witness said Freeland-Gaither — described by her parents as easy going until she’s threatened — broke the car’s rear side windows before the vehicle sped off.
Police said the suspect is in his 20s and about 5-foot-10 with a medium to heavy build. They said he likely is driving a gray, four-door Ford sedan — the vehicle in the surveillance video — probably built between 2000 and 2002.
Freeland-Gaither’s parents circulated fliers in Germantown, the neighborhood where she lived and was last seen. Facebook groups sprung up with prayers for her safe return.