ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Police are crediting an alert neighbor with saving a 6-year-old girl from a man who snatched her and shoved her into a van as she walked home from a neighbor's house where she had been sent to pick up tostadas.
A pair of 911 calls came in to police Monday afternoon, including one from the wife of the neighbor and a breathless call from the girl's 12-year-old sister.
"My little sister is missing," she told the operator, who was having trouble hearing her. "My little sister, she's missing. My little sister."
Her voice pitched with worry, she told police that her mother had gone out to look for her sister.
"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," the girl said of her little sister.
A neighbor, Antonio Diaz Chacon, heard commotion and saw the abduction just before 5 p.m. Monday. Police said he hopped in his car and chased the van and the van's driver tried to lose Chacon but crashed into a light pole.
Chacon rescued the girl while the suspect, whom police identified as Phillip Garcia, ran away. After Chacon left with the girl, the suspect returned to the van and took off but was later apprehended by police.
Hidden under a rock just 25 feet from where the kidnapper crashed his van, officers found packing tape and tie-down strap. 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," said Albuquerque police Sgt. Tricia Hoffman. "If it wasn't for him, this could have been very bad."
"It appeared his intentions were not good," Hoffman said.
Garcia was charged with kidnapping, child abuse and tampering with evidence.
The girl was grabbed with such force that bruising had already begun to appear on her chest and back Monday evening, police said. 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 not backseats in the van and described other details consistent with impounded van, police said.
She also expressed concern about not being able to bring the tostadas home.
Hoffman said Garcia is from Albuquerque but she was unsure if he had a criminal record. She said there have not been any other recent child abductions or attempted abductions in the city.
Associated Press writer Susan Montoya Bryan in Albuquerque, N.M., contributed to this report.
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