A California teen is being hailed a hero for his actions that helped rescue a 2-year-old girl taken from her home at knifepoint while sitting on her grandfather’s lap.
The little girl was with her grandfather, Oscar Mendez, inside a mobile home in Agua Dulce – a rural town about 45 miles from downtown Los Angeles – when a man later identified as 40-year-old Thomas Ray Dillingham burst through an open door wielding a large kitchen knife.
Dillingham purportedly said he was “taking the baby” before attempting to stab the grandfather. He then grabbed the child and ran off.
Mendez quickly ran next door to the neighbor’s home for help and 18-year old neighbor Carlos Rodriguez called 911. Rodriguez was able to give police a description of Dillingham.
“He stayed on the phone and provided valuable and detailed information throughout the ordeal,” the sheriff’s department said, according to KTLA.
“It was kind of shocking, because (Mendez) just started telling me the story,” Rodriguez said of the incident, according to the Santa Clarita Valley Signal. “I was really panicked.”
Another neighbor, a 43-year-old woman, also aided the grandfather in searching for the child. Using the information given to them, police were able to find and arrest Dillingham. The child was found unharmed inside of Dillingham’s trailer.
“Thanks to the quick actions of the neighbors, responding Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Deputies Michael Miller and David Nisenoff were able to immediately discern the suspect’s location upon arrival,” the Sheriff’s Department said in the release.
Rodriguez was given a certificate by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department during a news conference recognizing his work in capturing Dillingham.
“I thank him so much … and all the police officers here,” the child’s mother, Crysta Jimenez, said.
Jimenez said that while her daughter may be safe, the toddler is still “traumatized” by what happened.
"She doesn’t even smile that much anymore. She’s very serious now,” Jimenez said. “I think she’s … scared, or something like that.”
Dillingham, who was out of jail on parole and has “an extensive criminal history,” was being held on $220,000 bail. He was charged with kidnapping and assault and if convicted faces up to 30 years in prison.