It happened at Terronez Middle School at about 8:25 a.m. Police say the girl did everything right and that's why they caught the suspect near American and Highway 41 less than three hours later.
The girl was walking alone when the armed man tried to kidnap her. She ran away, got into the school and was one of many people who helped police catch the suspect.
Fresno police officers rushed to the school Thursday morning after a 12-year-old student reported a kidnap attempt by a masked man with a gun. Officers were already in the area after several reports of a suspicious brown pickup truck.
"We had information he was driving in the area of our schools here in southeast [Fresno]," said Lt. Burke Farrah. "That's when we immediately saturated the area looking for that truck."
The girl gave police a good description of the man and concerned citizens reported a license plate number on the truck. That led them to an area near American and Highway 41, where they arrested 22-year-old Mario Arciga in a brown pickup.
"In his vehicle they found a ski mask and handgun that matched a description the young lady had given us," said Lt. Farrah.
Parents picking up their students at Terronez say the incident is frightening and reinforces their decision to watch their kids all the way onto campus.
"I wait for my kids until I see them going in, all the way in," said Lourdes Hernandez. "I feel more at ease going home because it's troublesome. Scary."
"When it's nearby where you picked up your kids, it is kind of shocking, but also nice to know it was dealt with and taken care of," said Victor Bustos. "It makes me feel safe."
But many students come and go from school on foot without supervision. School officials say they repeatedly tell students to walk in groups for safety, but the victim was all by herself.
"She was late," said assistant Fresno Unified superintendent Nancy Akhavan. "She was coming after school already started and that could be why she was alone."
The girl went home for the day after reporting the crime, but police say she's ok.
Parents from Terronez started getting automated messages about the incident Thursday afternoon and reminders about how to keep their kids safe.