CHAMBLEE, Ga. (AP) — A couple accused of kidnapping a 1-year-old boy at gunpoint from his stroller outside his family's apartment near Atlanta “intended to raise” the baby as their own and had tried to abduct another child earlier that day, authorities said.
The mom put up a valiant fight and managed to take the gun from one suspect, but the baby was snatched away in what authorities are describing as an extremely rare random kidnapping, police said.
“She fought them tooth and nail,” Assistant Police Chief Mike Beller said at a news conference Monday.
Maynor Dario Valera-Zuniga and Kristin Nicole Valera-Zuniga confronted Leslie Barrera as she was out with her son Mateo Alejandro Montufar-Barrera on Saturday afternoon, Chamblee police said.
“She took his gun and tried to shoot him with it," he said. “She tore his shorts and kept his shoe. She showed us a mother’s love in action and we are so proud of her."
The gun didn't fire. The man’s wife, who was disguised as a male, grabbed the baby from the stroller during the struggle, police said. The couple drove off with the baby as Barrera, bleeding, chased after them on foot, her family said.
Seeking tips, the FBI released photos of the suspect's left shoe and a piece of his shorts, which Barrera ripped off in the struggle. Mateo was found unharmed — and now dressed as a girl — by state troopers who pulled over the couple's car about 60 miles (97 kilometers) away in Carroll County, police said.
The suspects did not appear to know Barrera or Mateo and had attempted to take another child that afternoon, investigators said. Witnesses reported seeing a couple approach a woman carrying a baby, but the woman was able to escape, officials said.
Both suspects were charged with kidnapping, and Maynor Dario Valera-Zuniga was also charged with additional counts of aggravated assault and battery. It was not immediately clear whether the two had attorneys who could comment for them.
The crime was completely random, Chamblee Police Chief Kerry Thomas said.
“I’ve been in law enforcement for 25 years and this is the first time I’ve been involved in a case like this and that shows you how rare a case like this is,” said Chris Hacker, special agent in charge of the FBI's Atlanta field office.