SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Two small children were abducted in a stolen minivan late Saturday night, taken while their father was making a DoorDash food delivery in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights neighborhood and discovered safe hours later inside the still running vehicle in a driveway across town.
The children appeared frightened, but uninjured and were taken to a local hospital accompanied by their mother to be given a check up.READ MORE: Lake County Luxury Hotel, Housing Project Raises Concerns Over Wildfire Risk
Meanwhile, the children’s father — Jeffery Fang — remained at the scene in San Francisco’s Bayview District, assisting police.
“The police informed me that they found the car and found the children inside,” he said. “At that moment it was just, elation that they are found…It’s a bad dream, I’m glad its nearing an end.”
Police said Fang had left the engine running while making a food delivery at approximately 8:50 p.m. in the 2100 block of Jackson Street, with his two children — a 4-year-old girl and a 2-year-old boy — inside.
“I pulled into the driveway of the condo building, doing a quick delivery,” Fang said of the incident. “The apartment is really close inside — I don’t have to go far. I went in a minute, come out, I see a stranger in my car, because I knew it was going to be quick I didn’t turn my car off.”
“My kids are inside. My youngest was sleeping and my second child was watching an in-car DVD…I came out, a guy was in my driver’s seat. I went up to him, yanked the car door open to say get out. I reached under his arm and tried to grab him out. He proceeded to put in reverse trying to shake me. I did not give in.”
“Seeing that I was not going to give up…he left the car. But in the process, he took my phone and then proceeded to run to his getaway car with his accomplice so I chase after him for my phone. I struggled with the accomplice and the getaway driver — the two of them — in their car for two blocks. They gave me my phone back and I tried to get back here (to the van) as soon as I could. I didn’t realize they had circled back and took my car anyway.”
Police issued an Amber Alert and an intense search was launched throughout the city. At approximately 1:00 a.m., two officers assigned to Bayview Station located the minivan on the 1200 block of Fitzgerald Avenue in the Bayview District. The children were inside, the engine was still running.
While the search was on, Fang said he and his wife were living a nightmare.
“It’s years for me, every minute was excruciating…It’s a happy close to an unfortunate episode.”
“I’m happy the children have been found. The kids are being given a look right now to make sure they are okay,” Fang said. “Tons of gratitude for the public for the outpouring of support and helping out. Words can’t express how much I appreciate everything the citizens who pitched in to help and most importantly the SFPD — their speedy response in trying to locate (the children)…It brings warmth to show the humanity of it all.”
He said his children will no longer accompany him on his deliveries.
“Hindsight is 2020, you can quarterback this and say well you should have turned off your car, you shouldn’t leave your car unlocked,” he said. “Going forward if I’m out delivering again, first of all my kids won’t be with me so that will be a non-issue.”
DoorDash CEO and co-founder Tony Xu issued a statement of support Sunday afternoon.READ MORE: Theft Leaves San Jose Couple Bereft: 'We’re Heartbroken, All Our Precious Things Are Gone'
“We are incredibly relieved that the children are safe and have been reunited with their parents, and appreciate the San Francisco Police Department and all those involved for their quick work and commitment to protecting our community,” Xu said. “We were appalled by this brazen and heinous act and are actively working with law enforcement in their ongoing investigation.”
“As a father myself, I can only imagine how terrifying this incident must have been for Mr. Fang and his family. We have been in contact with him to offer our full support and our thoughts remain with him and his loved ones. We urge anyone with information about this horrific incident to contact law enforcement immediately.”
Meanwhile, San Francisco police chief Bill Scott hailed his department’s cooperative efforts in a Sunday afternoon news conference.
“Sometimes in incidents like this you have to pull out all the stops” and commit a large amount of overtime, he said, adding “Those two children would not have been found as quickly as they were.”
Scott said the department’s entire swing shift of some 100 personnel was put on overtime in the effort to find the children, adding that the situation is an example of when such a cost is necessary even during tight financial times.
“Sometimes in incidents like this you have to pull out all the stops” and commit a large amount of overtime, he said, adding “Those two children would have been found as quickly as they were.”
He said the department was determined it “would not relent until they were found,” and praised the large response by department staff, neighboring police agencies, the media, and people on social media in spreading the word of the abduction.
“It takes a team effort in a crisis situation like this to bring a successful resolution,” Scott said.
A GoFundMe (https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-the-fang-family-after-children-abducted?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=m_pd+share-sheet) established by a family friend has raised more than $70,000 for the family, which Scott said showed the resilience and concern not only of San Franciscans, but the entire Bay Area.
The department is now turning its attention to finding the person or persons who stole the car.
Scott made a personal appeal to those involved “to turn themselves in.”
“Give yourselves up,” Scott said. “We won’t give up until we find you.”
Police are asking people in the areas involved to check surveillance video, particularly in the 2100 block of Jackson by Laguna Street.
Scott asked anyone with information or possible video to contact the department tip line at (415) 575-4444.MORE NEWS: Indoor Restaurant Dining Resumes, Movie Theaters Reopen in SF and Santa Clara Counties
© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Bay City News contributed to this report