FRESNO (CBS/AP/BCN) – Police say an 8-year-old girl who was abducted while playing outside a Fresno home was sexually assaulted before managing to escape her captor.
Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer said the child told investigators that 24-year-old Gregorio Gonzalez took her to a wooded area near a canal and sexually assaulted her after kidnapping her Monday night.
Gonzalez is a member of the Bulldog street gang, according to police. They have not released a motive for the random attack.
Gonzalez was arrested after after a Good Samaritan cut off his vehicle in traffic Tuesday morning. Gonzalez allegedly stopped his truck and pushed out the girl after the driver recognized his vehicle – apparently having seen surveillance footage of the suspect’s truck released by police – and followed it until he spotted the child inside.
Gonzalez was arrested a short time later by the California Highway Patrol.
A statewide Amber Alert was issued overnight the girl. At a news conference Tuesday morning, Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer said the girl was frightened and traumatized, but otherwise OK.
“We beat the odds today,” Dyer said. “Because in many cases we don’t find the child alive.”
The girl was was taken to Community Regional Medical Center for evaluation as a precaution.
“I got to tell you, it was the highlight of my career seeing (her) and her mom reunite in that hospital room,” Dyer said.
Shortly before 8:30 p.m. Monday, a man in a pickup truck pulled up in front of an apartment complex at 2751 E. Hammond Ave. near a group of children who were playing.
The man approached another 6-year-old girl and the 8-year-old, who started to walk with the man as the younger girl walked away, police said.
Witnesses yelled at the children to get away from the man, who then grabbed the 8-year-old and pushed her into the truck’s cab.
The girl’s mother hopped into a car and tried to chase the truck- a late 70s or early 80s Ford or Chevy pickup truck with a distinctive 6-inch white horizontal stripe on its sides – but lost track of it, police said.
Minutes before the girl was abducted, Fresno police received a call about a separate incident in which a man matching the suspect’s description dropped his pants and exposed himself to two other young girls. Investigators are looking into whether the man in custody is connected to that case.
The FBI and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children both assisted in the statewide search.
Fresno police Tuesday morning searched isolated and secluded areas, including nearby hotels, motels, bus depots, train stations, schools and parks. A door-to-door search was carried out in the immediate area of the abduction.
During the news conference, Dyer thanked the city of Fresno and the media for their help in bringing the girl home.
“I think all of us tonight can pat ourselves on the back and be thankful that (she) is alive and well and we have the suspect in custody,” Dyer said.
Fresno police have now taken over the investigation.
Anyone with more information about the case should call the Fresno Police Department at (559) 621-7000.
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