Authorities said the girls, who are in middle school, were attacked last week at a Speedway in Millington, a small town about 80 miles northeast of Lansing. A 22-year-old man, who was identified as Bruce Hipkins, “grabbed the youngest girl around the head and told her she was coming with him,” then the others started defending her, according to a statement from the Millington Police Department.
Authorities said Hipkins “let the young girl go and grabbed another one of the girls by her hair.” Again, police said, he was “kicked and hit by the girls until he let her go.”
The girls were not harmed in the incident. Hipkins was arrested on numerous charges, including kidnapping, police said.
“I think they did great,” Millington Police Chief Jason Oliver said about the girls Tuesday in an interview with The Washington Post. “They did exactly what they should have done. They fought the suspect — and they won.”
According to Oliver, Hipkins’s family said the suspect is on the autism spectrum, a claim police have not confirmed. Hipkins is being held on $250,000 bond. It was not immediately clear whether he has an attorney.
The father of two of the girls, Aaron Eickhoff, said his daughters and two of their friends were walking home about 10 p.m. Friday from a townwide festival when they stopped by a Speedway for drinks and snacks. He said the girls, who range in age from 11 to 14, spotted the man inside the store and when he followed them outside, they walked to a well-lit area in a nearby parking lot.
Eickhoff said the youngest girl in the group — his 11-year-old daughter, Allison — was the first one who was attacked. He said the man put one hand around Allison’s mouth and the other hand around her neck, then started dragging her away.
Allison told The Post in an interview Tuesday the man “grabbed my face, and he swooped me up and said, ‘You’re coming with me,’ and I was really scared at that point.”
“I was thinking, ‘This cannot be happening,’” she added. “I was just in shock.”
Allison said her sister, who is 13, and their friends started “scratching” and “kicking” him and one girl threw iced coffee in his face. Then, Allison said, she took off running to a nearby restaurant and bar, screaming, “Someone help! Please help!”
Someone inside the restaurant called 911, and police responded to the scene, locating the suspect — with coffee stains on his shirt — not far from where the incident occurred.
Eickhoff said he is proud of his daughters and their friends for fighting back and relieved they were unharmed.
“I was really raging mad,” the 41-year-old father said, “but you have to look at the fact that our daughters are fine . . . I’m very proud of them. I haven’t let them leave my arms yet. They’re so unbelievable.”
“How they reacted was just amazing,” Eickhoff added. “It was true bravery.”
When asked how the girls knew what to do in that situation, Allison responded, “We watch a lot of ‘Law and Order’ and ‘Dateline’ and also my dad taught us some moves.” But, she said, she does not think she will venture out at night again, especially alone, without an adult.
“There’s kids out there that think it couldn’t happen,” she said. “It can happen in any small town, anytime, anywhere.”