For San Pedro restaurant owner Bahman (Bob) Sanjabi, the long evening’s work was just about over. It was after midnight. The doors of his Green Onion were closed, and the last of the patrons had gone. He was sitting in the bar sipping a beer with his chef, his night boss and his secretary when the phone rang.
“If the police had called 15 minutes later, they would have missed me,” he said.
Instead, Sanjabi stepped into a hero’s role.
The caller was a longtime friend and patron, Palos Verdes Estates Police Sgt. Art Clabby. The sergeant explained that FBI agents had arrested a suspected kidnaper near Los Angeles International Airport.
Clabby said the suspect, an Iranian, had hidden his two hostages--a 1-year-old child and his baby sitter--and despite four hours of intensive questioning, he refused to tell investigators where they were, or even if they were alive. Would Sanjabi, an Iranian immigrant who spoke fluent Farsi, please talk to the man?
“They told me they were hopeless,” the 51-year-old restaurateur said of police.
Federal agents had tried “everything they had” to get the suspect to talk. “They said, ‘Let’s get someone to talk to him in his native language.’ I was just glad I could help.”
The ordeal of the two hostages, Clayton Hall Anthony and his baby sitter, Kathleen Gilbeau, 56, had been dragging on since Wednesday morning, when the two were abducted in Palos Verdes Estates.
The suspect, Farhad Rahimi Kashani, 26, had been arrested about 9 p.m. Friday, after he allegedly collected a ransom of $100,000 outside a fast-food restaurant.
Sanjabi said he was “shaking” as he was dropped off at the arrest site. FBI agents briefed him for a few minutes before he stepped into a mobile unit to talk to Kashani, who was handcuffed, tired-looking and dispirited, Sanjabi said.
The suspect seemed to be desperate and lonely and he had been telling FBI agents he would rather kill himself than go to jail, Sanjabi said.
“He was about my height, about 5-foot-9, with a dark complexion,” the graying, bespectacled business owner said.
Sanjabi began by greeting the suspect in the traditional Iranian way, grabbing his shoulders and kissing him. He said he began the questioning gingerly.
‘State of Shock’
“I was in a state of shock,” Sanjabi said. “I figured the thing to do was to talk to him very softly. I asked him several times if they were killed. But no answer. Quiet.
“I said, ‘What about the child? What about this woman?’ I kept asking him over and over, in his native language. Finally, after 20 minutes, he said they were not killed. He said, ‘They are in my camper, all tied up.’ ”
FBI agents used a map to locate the spot and within a matter of minutes, both victims were found unharmed.