CLEVELAND, May 11, 2013 -- The officer in charge of the district where three missing Cleveland women were abducted fired back at criticism today that his department failed to respond to warning signs from neighborhood residents, in his first interview since the women were found.
"Everything was checked out," former commander of the First District Gary Gingell told ABC News. "If it was something we checked out before, we checked it out again.
"I know the guys involved in the investigation both on our side and the FBI and they would not have let those kinds of things go," he said. "They would have checked it out and vetted it out completely."
However, according to two brothers who lived in the West Side neighborhood where Gina DeJesus disappeared, the police were not receptive to their calls at the time that they had seen a suspicious incident involving a young Hispanic girl.
Brian Poindexter and his brother Eric were driving down the street one day when a small silver SUV suddenly cut them off on West 105th Street, did a U-turn, and approached the girl, they said.
When they saw TV reports days later about Gina's disappearance, the brothers said, they reached out to authorities, first to a former police detective with whom they were friends, then via a hotline.
Not only did the brothers remember the time and place of the incident and the type of car, they even memorized the license plate: Ohio "ELLIOTC." But they said that when a detective called them back to ask questions, the detective was "accusatory," rather than receptive.
"I don't think they believed me at all," Brian Poindexter said. "I don't think they checked it out at all.
"Hopefully they exhausted all avenues, but right now I'm skeptical," he added.
In a statement to ABC News today, Cleveland Police said, "We can say definitively that we have no record of this report."
DeJesus, Amanda Berry and Michelle Knight all disappeared within blocks of one another along a stretch of Lorain Avenue between West 105th Street and West 110th Street.
The three women were rescued from Ariel Castro's house on Seymour Avenue on Monday evening after Berry managed to escape through the front door. Berry's 6-year-old daughter Jocelyn, who was fathered by Castro, was also found inside the house.
Earlier this week Gingell spent time with DeJesus and Berry in the hospital and he said he broke down in tears, astounded by how "just unbelievably together" the two women were.
Gingell is currently the commander of the Cleveland Division of Police Bureau of Special Services.
Castro, 52, was arraigned Thursday in an Ohio court on charges of kidnapping and rape. Bond was set at $8 million. He did not enter a plea.