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Investigators Arrest Man in Alleged Kidnapping

Crime: Police trace a cell phone to El Centro, where they find the suspect's son and the boy's aunt unharmed.

October 05, 2002|ERIC MALNIC | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Los Angeles man suspected of kidnapping his year-old son and the boy's aunt was arrested in El Centro near the Mexican border, and the boy and the woman were found unharmed Friday after police traced the suspect's cellular telephone call, investigators said.

"We knew that phone call had been made from El Centro, but it could have been made from anywhere in the city," El Centro Police Sgt. Theresa Quinn said Friday.

"I thought, 'Well, if I had a kid that I wanted to calm down, I'd take him to McDonald's,' " Quinn said. "So I got in an unmarked car and drove down to McDonald's, and, lo and behold, there they were."

Quinn said she called for backup and, flanked by two officers with automatic rifles, she approached the pickup in which the man, woman and baby were sitting.

"He didn't resist," Quinn said. "When there are police standing there with AR-15s, that's probably a good idea."

Amadeo Medina, who already was wanted on a domestic violence warrant, was booked on suspicion of kidnapping, police said. Officers said that, although he had claimed to have a gun at the time of the abduction, none was recovered.

Medina's son, Amadeo "Felipe" Medina, and the child's aunt, Naomi Salizar, 39, were taken into protective custody.

Debora Salizar was flown by police helicopter to El Centro, where she was reunited with her son.

Los Angeles Police Capt. Jim Miller said the incident began about 1:30 p.m. Thursday when Medina woke Debora Salizar from a nap at her home in the 1600 block of West 59th Street and told her: "Either you come with me, or you're never going to see [Felipe] again."

When Debora Salizar went outside, she saw the child and his aunt sitting in Naomi Salizar's car, investigators said. Medina was behind the wheel.

The mother tried to pull the boy out of the car, but Medina drove away, detectives said. They said Medina then made a U-turn and warned Debora Salizar it was her "last chance" to get in the car. When she hesitated, he drove away and did not return, police said.

Police were notified, and the California Highway Patrol issued an Amber alert, warning that the boy had been abducted and was believed to be in danger.

Naomi Salizar's car was found abandoned shortly before midnight in an unincorporated area of Los Angeles County just west of Ladera Heights. Suspecting that Medina might have switched to his truck, police issued a bulletin for the 1998 GMC pickup, advising that the suspect might be headed for the Mexican border.

Early Friday morning, Medina used his cell phone to call his family in Los Angeles, police said. Detectives, who were monitoring the incoming calls, traced the call to El Centro.

Quinn said she was at the station about 9 a.m. when one of the El Centro detectives told her about the phone call. A half-hour later, she made the arrest.

"I sure am glad that kid's safe."

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