A mother whose 4-year-old was being abducted chased the suspect down and crashed her vehicle into his car, triggering a manhunt and the arrest of the suspect, police said.
The young girl was playing in her yard in Albuquerque at about 6:30 p.m. local time Wednesday when a group of teenagers saw the kidnapping and ran to alert the girl's mother, police said.
The family called police and the mother jumped into her vehicle and gave chase for about 7 miles, unaware the man had pushed the girl out of the silver Buick before fleeing the apartment complex, authorities said. The girl was found wandering nearby, uninjured, police said.
According to police, the mother followed the suspect and finally rammed into his car near an intersection. The suspect fled on foot, police said.
The most recent comprehensive study on child abductions by non-family members took place more than a decade ago. The study, published by the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, recorded 58,200 abductions by non-family members in 1999. Police returned 11,600 of the children abducted. In a majority of cases, the victim was a teenager. Half of the abductees were sexually assaulted by the perpetrator, the report says.
Melissa Torrez, the mother, told KOAT-TV she didn't mean to hit the suspect's car and struck it accidentally when she lost control of her car. Torrez said she didn't even have time to cry when she jumped to chase the suspect.
"I don't ever want to lose my kids," said Torrez, a mother of three.
Torrez said after the crash she looked in the back seat of the suspect's car and saw an empty baby car seat.
"I was like...what a sick man," she told the station.
The attempted kidnapping sparked a massive manhunt Wednesday as more than two dozen officers went door-to-door in the area looking for the suspect. A helicopter with heat-sensor cameras also was sent in for the search, authorities said.
Police arrested David Hernandez, 31, on Thursday afternoon in Rio Rancho after he saw his picture on television and called police. After being interviewed, he was charged with kidnapping, police spokeswoman Tasia Martinez said.
As he was being taken to jail, Hernandez told reporters that he was innocent. It was not known if Hernandez had an attorney.
Kevin Abar, assistant special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations, confirmed to The Associated Press that federal agents also helped Albuquerque police with the investigation.
In February, state and local enforcement agencies launched the Sexual Predator and Exploitation Enforcement Detail, or SPEED — a task force aimed at finding missing and abducted children.
Police were also investigating a possible connection to the abduction and sexual assault of a 6-year-old from the same apartment complex last week. The suspect in that case was described as a male in a silver or gray vehicle.