The girl’s mother, who was inside her home at the time, later wrote in an email to her neighbors that the woman told her daughter “that she had cotton candy for her and that she should stop resisting and just come to her house.”
A D.C. police spokesman said it appeared to be a random kidnapping attempt with no apparent connection between the woman and the child or her family. Police Chief Peter Newsham on Wednesday afternoon said police had a “person of interest” in custody and were continuing to investigate.
As the frightening details spread, warnings were posted in neighborhood email groups and school bulletins.
Newsham credited the caregiver for staying to watch the child as she walked toward her home. He said people who saw or encountered the woman described her behavior as erratic and said “she potentially was intoxicated or under the influence of drugs.”
The chief said the incident “was scary for the child, scary for the caregiver and scary for the parents.”
Police described the woman as white, between 30 and 40 years old, and about 5 feet 7 inches tall. She has blond hair in a mohawk-style haircut and was last seen running east on Dumbarton Street about 5 p.m. wearing a white coat.
The mother agreed to allow The Washington Post to quote from her letter to neighbors and to discuss the case on the condition that her name and her child’s name not be published.
The incident occurred in the 2800 block of Dumbarton Street NW. The girl was carrying a book bag decorated with pictures of female athletes. After she broke free, her mother said, the woman chased her but ran when the nanny started screaming.
The girl banged on a side door to alert her mother, who found her daughter “sobbing and still screaming: ‘Never! Never! I will never go!’ ” The mother called police and raced down the street to look for the woman.
“She is an extra-strong kid,” the mother said in an interview, describing how her daughter is doing. “She’s stronger than we are and has always been that way. She did great yesterday. She believes in herself, and right now she’s feeling good. But there are some signs she’s shaken up.”
The mother added: “We are so lucky. She is alive, and she wasn’t taken.”
To her neighbors, she wrote, “This has been a sobering day, and we are so grateful.”
She noted that her daughter was “safe, now sleeping at my side.”
Clarence Williams contributed to this report.