SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Police in San Francisco on Wednesday announced the arrest of a suspect in the Saturday abduction of two small children taken during the theft of a minivan in Pacific Heights, according to authorities.
San Francisco police confirmed early Wednesday afternoon that one suspect, identified as 25-year-old Erlin Romero, was arrested Tuesday morning at around 11:20 a.m. in the Bayview District.READ MORE: Smash-And-Grab Thieves Hit San Jose Eastridge Mall Jewelry Store; 5 Sought
Police confirmed the suspect was wearing a GPS ankle monitor at the time of the arrest.
Romero was already facing two previous charges of robbery and possession of a stolen vehicle from last year. Prosecutors from the District Attorney’s office asked a judge to detain Romero while awaiting trial in both cases, but were denied.
A judge set bail and allowed his release, twice.
“We know crime is a reality. We know sometimes people who are arrested will
reoffend,” said San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin.
Police are still searching for at least one other unidentified suspect who remains at large, according to SFPD Public Information Officer Sgt. Michael Andraychak.
KPIX confirmed that Romero was booked Tuesday evening on suspicion of multiple charges in connection with the abduction and carjacking. Charges include two counts of kidnapping, auto theft, robbery, conspiracy to commit a crime, battery and a probation violation, police said.
Romero is scheduled to be in court on Thursday, March 25th.
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The two young children were abducted while their father was making a DoorDash food delivery in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights neighborhood Saturday evening. They were found safe hours later early Sunday morning inside the still running vehicle in a driveway across town in the Bayview District.
Police said the children appeared frightened, but were uninjured when found by officers. They were taken to a local hospital accompanied by their mother to be given a check up.
“The police informed me that they found the car and found the children inside,” the children’s father Jeffery Fang said Saturday night. “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.”READ MORE: Investigation Finds Vallejo Officer's Use of Deadly Force Not 'Reasonable'
“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.
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.”
The carjacking is another sign of rising San Francisco crime, even in Pacific Heights where the carjacking happened.
“People are scared; really scared. They are moving because of this,” said District 2 Supervisor Catherine Stefani, who represents Pacific Heights. “They reoffend and reoffend, then commit a big enough crime to prosecute because it’s in the spotlight.”
Stefani suggested that Boudin and his office need to take responsibility for curbing crime.
“The DA is responsible for public safety in the city and he has to own that. All I hear is, ‘It’s the police’s fault, probation’s fault, parole’s fault, CHP’s fault,'” said Stefani. “But he has to take personal responsibility and look at how to make people safer in the city.”
Boudin countered that he felt all San Francisco officials have a responsibility to make the city safer.
“I don’t think finger-pointing is helpful. We’re all working together — or at least we’re supposed to be — to keep SF safe,” said the District Attorney. “I sure hope Stefani will ensure my office has the funding we need to get back to the same staffing levels we had in 2019.”
Romero could face over 10 years in prison if convicted of all the charges he faced. Fang, the father of the children who were abducted last weekend, spoke to KPIX and said he remains concerned because of the outstanding suspect still at large in the case.MORE NEWS: San Francisco Lights Up GG Park Christmas Tree After Darkest Year of Pandemic
Kenny Choi contributed to this story.