published Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

Police: New Mexico kidnapper thwarted by alert neighbor

  • photo
    Philip Garcia, of Albuquerque, N.M., is charged with suspicion of kidnapping. Police say Garcia was thwarted by a man who witnessed a 6-year-old girl being pushed into a van and then quickly alerted authorities. Albuquerque police say that the suspect tried to coax the girl into a green van late Monday afternoon before pushing her into the vehicle.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

By JERI CLAUSING, Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The pair of 911 calls came in quick succession from a New Mexico mobile home park.

On one, a frantic 12-year-old says her little sister is missing. On the other is the wife of the man who would be credited with saving the 6-year-old from every parent’s nightmare.

“We are outside of my mom’s house here,” Martha Diaz told the dispatcher. “We heard a man going, ‘Hey, hey let her go. Let her go.’ So we turn around ...

“The man came running to us and said, ‘They stole a little girl.”’

Phillip Garcia, 29, had snatched the girl moments earlier on Monday afternoon in Albuquerque, taking her away in a blue van, police said. Diaz’s husband, Antonio Diaz Chacon, gave chase.

Garcia tried to lose him but ended up crashing into a telephone pole a few miles away, police said.

Garcia fled on foot, and Diaz Chacon grabbed the girl and took her home, police said. Garcia then returned to his wrecked van and took off but was later captured by police, authorities said.

Hidden under a rock just 25 feet from the van was packing tape and a tie-down strap, police said.

Inside the impounded van were tostadas, a glove, a Leatherman tool, a black satchel, orange strapping similar to the strap found hidden under the rock, police said.

“This little girl was very lucky,” police Sgt. Tricia Hoffman said. “We can only guess what would have happened to this child.”

“Throughout the county we see situations like this and they do not end typically well,” she said.

Diaz Chacon, she said, “did an amazing, amazing job and he saved this girl’s life”

Garcia was charged with kidnapping, child abuse and tampering with evidence. Hoffman said Garcia is from Albuquerque and had a revoked license but she was unsure if he had a criminal record.

She said he immediately contacted a lawyer and gave no statement to authorities. Garcia was still jailed Tuesday and no lawyer had yet been listed as taking the case, according to court officials.

Hoffman said she said there have not been any other recent child abductions or attempted abductions in the city.

The girl told police she had gone to a neighbor’s to pick up some tostadas and was walking home when the van stopped and the man grabbed her.

“She went to go to the neighbor’s and on her way back we don’t know what happened to her. ... When she was coming back or on her way, she just like disappeared,” her sister said in the 911 call.

The girl was grabbed with such force, police said, that bruising had already begun to appear on her chest and back Monday evening. The girl told police the man put his hand over her mouth and she bit him.

She said the man shoved her on the floorboard to keep her head under the window view, according to the police report. She told police there were no backseats in the van and described other details consistent with impounded van, police said.

She also described rolling in the van when it crashed, and breaking a fingernail. Police said they found what appeared to be a piece of fingernail in the van.

During her interview, police said the girl was concerned that she was unable to bring the tostadas home because she had left them in the van.

———

Associated Press writer Susan Montoya Bryan in Albuquerque, N.M., contributed to this report.

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