Over the weekend, a father’s report that his daughter was abducted in a carjacking mobilized law enforcement.
The Oakland Police Department and the California Highway Patrol issued an Amber Alert, notified media and posted on their social accounts in an attempt to find the 3-year-old girl. But early Sunday, officers arrested the girl’s father on suspicion of making a fake police report.
According to Oakland police, the man told officers his daughter was kidnapped so they would find his stolen car more quickly. It worked, but now he’s in custody and may face felony charges from the Alameda County district attorney’s office, said Oakland Police Officer Johnna Watson.
Authorities have not released the man’s name.
The search began Saturday night, when the girl’s father left his car running while making a quick stop at a store. As he finished shopping, he saw a man drive off with his car, a silver 2005 Mercedes-Benz, Watson said.
He called police and said his daughter was in the back seat of the car, Watson said. Law enforcement officials used every resource available to help locate the girl and posted a photograph of her on their social media accounts, along with a photograph of the Mercedes-Benz and its license plate.
Help locate missing child 3 year-old who was taken in carjacking. The suspect has been taken into custody and the vehicle is a 2005 Mercedes Benz S430-4 Door silver license 8GIY743 has been recovered. We need to find the child. pic.twitter.com/eP26IM8SGU— Oakland Police Dept. (@oaklandpoliceca) May 12, 2019
“Any time you indicate to law enforcement that you have an abduction that just occurred … it really heightens and changes the crime,” Watson said. “It goes from being a property crime to a human being’s life.”
Just before midnight on Saturday, El Cerrito police officers located the car and made a traffic enforcement stop to make contact with the driver, Watson said. But the suspect didn’t stop, resulting in a chase before the Mercedes crashed. It’s unclear if he or any others were injured, Watson said.
The man was arrested on suspicion of vehicle theft, but the officers’ search for the toddler continued.
“There was not a 3-year-old girl in the car,” Watson said. “That heightened our awareness even more.”
Shortly before 2 a.m. Sunday, they learned that the girl had never been abducted and met with the 3-year-old girl and her mother personally, Watson said. When police spoke with the father again, he admitted that he had lied so that they would find his car faster.
The car has moderate to severe damage from the crash involving the suspect, Watson said.
“It’s a gross misuse of a system in place to help save lives,” she said. “We’re lucky this is a positive outcome.”