Toddler Kidnapped in Skid Row, Rescued

November 16, 2007

Los Angeles: Los Angeles police officers arrested a 47-year-old man this afternoon after he snatched a 22-month-old boy from a stroller while his mother shopped in a store on Winston Street.

"This young mother owes a debt to the men who stopped this man and held him for police," said Lt. Paul Vernon, head of the detective division at Central Police Station. "As far as we can tell the suspect had no prior contact with the mother or the child. We’re looking at his criminal history to see if he has any prior, similar acts."

The 33-year-old mother from Gardena shops at Top Zone, located at 256 Winston Street, about once a week. It is one of many small stores in the district called Toy Town, in the heart of Skid Row. The store had a sign posted, prohibiting strollers so the mother left the stroller with her son inside at the door while she went inside around 2:15 PM.

A few minutes later, a man noticed a short Hispanic man, apparently drunk, awkwardly carrying a child under one arm. As this witness passed the Top Zone, he noticed the empty stroller and stepped inside. He saw the child’s mother and asked if she had a baby in the stroller. Looking inside the empty stroller, she ran in the direction the witness last saw the drunk carrying the child.

Unfazed from the screaming mother following him, the drunk man, later identified as Mario Salcedo, walking south on Wall Street. As he got to the property line of the Union Rescue Mission, a 38-year-old good Samaritan grabbed Salcedo. The distraught mother pulled the child from the kidnapper’s arms, the good Samaritan forced that suspect to the ground and held him for police. The child was not injured in the incident.

Mario Salcedo claims to be homeless. He was booked for kidnapping, and his bail was set at $100,000.

"There are several lessons for all of us here," Lt. Vernon said. "First, leave the stroller at the door, but take the child with you; second, don’t underestimate the honor of some of the people who find themselves on Skid Row; and finally, remember this incident the next time someone questions why the police cite for illegal behavior like drinking and being drunk in public."

Lieutenant Vernon may be reach at 213-972-1203.