FRESNO, Calif. – Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Thursday honored the Good Samaritan who authorities say chased down a kidnapper and helped free an 8-year-old Fresno girl.
Schwarzenegger called Fresno resident Victor Perez a hero and made a pitch for local businesses to hire the unemployed construction worker.
Perez, a legal resident who was born in Ensenada, Mexico, came to the United States as a small child and attended school in Fresno. He recently returned to live with a cousin after a stint in San Diego and has been picking grapes to make ends meet, he said.
Perez appeared moved by the ceremony honoring him at Fresno City Hall, offering his thanks to God.
"I just want ... to give thanks to that family, that the baby is back together with the mom," he said as cameras flashed. "That's the real hero to me, the daughter and the mom being back together. Thank you."
The girl's abduction triggered a statewide Amber Alert on Monday night. Perez recounted how he tried to stop the kidnapper after he saw the red pickup truck's description on television.
He said he spotted it in front of his home, jumped in his own vehicle and cut off the truck three times until the girl could escape. He then stayed with the child and called 911, and police soon thereafter arrested Gregorio Gonzalez, 24, an alleged member of the Bulldogs street gang.
Gonzalez was charged Thursday with eight felony counts, including multiple counts of rape and kidnapping of a child. He was scheduled to be arraigned Friday.
Perez has appeared on numerous network shows including ABC's Good Morning America, and also will be honored during halftime at a football game at California State University, Fresno, on Saturday.
Mayor Ashley Swearengin also proclaimed Thursday "Victor Perez Day."