ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Antonio Diaz Chacon heard his neighbor yelling, “Let her go, let her go,” at the Vista del Sol Mobile Home Park in southwest Albuquerque on Monday afternoon and checked to see what the commotion was.
That’s when he saw a man, whom he had never seen before, grab a 6-year-old girl who lived in the neighborhood and pull her into a van.
The girl had been walking back from a neighbor’s house where she had gone to pick up a bag of tostadas. On her way home, she later told police, a blue van pulled up and its driver grabbed her, put his hand over her mouth and threw her into the van.
Listen to the 911 call
Diaz Chacon jumped into action.
He told the Journal in Spanish on Tuesday that guardian angels were with him when he decided to chase the van. As he gave chase in his truck, his wife, Martha, called police. They both knew the little girl, who sometimes played with their daughters.
He followed the van about four miles until it crashed into a light pole near 118th and Dennis Chavez SW. The van’s driver, later identified as 29-year-old Phillip Garcia, ran from the van toward a mesa.
Diaz Chacon jumped out of his truck, ran to the van and got the girl out. He then drove the girl to the mobile home park office, where her parents were waiting.
En route, the girl asked Diaz Chacon, “Where am I?” He told her not to worry and that he was taking her home. He said she appeared dazed and was trying to figure out what happened.
Bruises to the girl’s back were noticeable. Diaz Chacon said she must have become bruised during the ordeal.
When they arrived back at the mobile home park, the girl’s parents – who had been told what had happened – were very happy to see her safe, thanked Diaz Chacon and told him “you gave us our life back.”
The girl told police of her frightening ordeal, saying that she was able to bite her abductor’s finger when he covered her mouth. She said he pushed her head down to the van’s floorboard to keep her from view, according to a criminal complaint. She said the van had no back seats.
She also was concerned that the bag of tostadas was still in the van, and she hadn’t been able to bring them home.
A piece of fingernail was later found by police on the van’s floorboard. The girl told police that she broke her nail when the van crashed.
After Diaz Chacon retrieved the girl, Garcia returned to the van and headed west on Dennis Chavez, according to the criminal complaint. The van left the road and became stuck on the mesa.
Police caught up to Garcia, who is now charged with kidnapping, child abuse and tampering with evidence.
When police found him, Garcia had a bite mark to his pinky finger and cuts on both his hands and his right thigh.
A police search of Garcia’s van turned up a bag of tostadas. Police also found a bag inside the van with a Leatherman tool, a black glove and what appeared to be orange strapping.
Near the original crash, police found a roll of clear packing tape and an orange tie-down strap, according to the complaint.
“It does not appear that he had good intentions,” Albuquerque police spokeswoman Sgt. Trish Hoffman said.
Hoffman said this type of abduction is rare in Albuquerque. She said it is not known why Garcia, who does not live in the area, was in that trailer park or what his intentions were. It does not appear he knew the girl’s family, but police are still investigating.
Garcia immediately asked to speak with an attorney and did not speak with police after he was arrested. Court records show Garcia has two prior DWI convictions, in 2004 and last year, and pleaded guilty earlier this year to battery against a household member.
Diaz Chacon said he was happy the girl was not harmed.
“I had guardian angels,” Diaz Chacon said. “… I was not afraid.”
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal