FORT WORTH, Texas – Authorities rescued a Texas 8-year-old Sunday after a vigilant duo saw the Fort Worth Police Department’s description of the car suspected in her kidnapping and went hunting for it, police said.
Standing in front of the WoodSpring Suites in the suburb of Forest Hill, a beaming Buddy Calzada, spokesman for the Fort Worth police, told reporters that the pair, members of a local church, found the grey Ford Five Hundred in the hotel parking lot.
“As you can see, there is a smile on my face. I’m here to report that Salem has been found safe,” he said.
Police have charged Michael Webb, 51, with aggravated kidnapping, a first-degree felony. Webb is not related to the girl, Salem Sabatka, police said.
Salem was taking a walk with her mother Saturday night in Fort Worth when a car approached and a man snatched her, police said. Her mother tried to jump into the vehicle to save her daughter, but the man shoved her and sped away, video from a home doorbell shows.
Authorities issued an AMBER Alert and posted photos of Salem and the Ford Five Hundred to social media.
The churchgoers saw the posts, found the vehicle and called it in to police. Officers determined in what room the car’s owner was staying, breached the door and found Salem, Calzada said.
“They’re our heroes tonight, I’ll tell you that,” he said of the churchgoers.
Jeff King has come forward as one of the heroes and told “Good Morning America” that he knew Salem’s dad, so when he learned the girl was missing, he touched base with friends who were already out looking for the youngster. King went to the crime scene where a Fort Worth detective told him he should be checking parks, apartments and hotels, he told the show.
“We got out here and tried to make a difference,” he said. “I went ahead and started looking at parks and then just kind of [was] told this one motel and we went there. And on the way back from that motel, this one was right next to us on the access road, so we just pulled in and yeah, that’s how it happened. It’s kind of crazy.”
The second hero hasn’t been identified, but Calzada told reporters Sunday he hoped to make the person’s name public in coming days.
Salem appeared calm and unharmed, according to officers, Calzada said. She was taken to a local hospital and has been reunited with her family.
During the hours she was missing, several law enforcement agencies, including Homeland Security, searched for the girl.