Two weeks after being kidnapped from his San Bernardino home by armed intruders, 3-year-old Briant Rodriguez was found wandering the streets of Mexicali, Mexico, and returned safely to his mother Saturday.
"It was a very beautiful thing," said San Bernardino County Sheriff's Sgt. Doug Hubbard, who witnessed the emotional reunion at a Border Patrol station in Calexico.
The pair were flown back to San Bernardino, where Briant was taken to a local hospital for medical evaluation.
Sheriff Rod Hoops said the department received a call from Mexican officials Friday saying a local policeman had seen a boy matching Briant's description walking around Mexicali, a bustling city just across the border from Calexico.
The officer took the boy from house to house to see if anyone recognized him then put him in the custody of local social services, who notified the Sheriff's Department, Hoops said Saturday.
Sheriff's investigators, the FBI and Maria Rosalina Millan, the boy's mother, immediately traveled to the border. After the Mexican bureaucracy was negotiated, Briant was handed over to his mother at 4:15 p.m. Saturday.
The boy's curly hair had been cut off, but he was still easily recognizable and apparently in good health.
No arrests were made, and authorities are still searching for two men they believe carried out the May 3 kidnapping in which five family members were tied up, their house was ransacked and Briant was taken.
"We cannot share the motive today, but in a few days we will be able to," Hoops said.
He would not speculate on whether the case was tied to Mexican organized crime and said that to his knowledge the boy's parents were not involved in any illegal activity.
Lt. Frank Gonzalez promised more details "in the next 48 to 72 hours."
The gunmen who snatched Briant also took money and two cellphones. Millan said she repeatedly told them she didn't owe them anything. An Amber alert was issued, and a nationwide hunt for the boy began.