SANTA ANA, Calif. (KABC) --A 4-year-old boy in Santa Ana who was kidnapped from a playground is back home thanks to Good Samaritans.
Authorities say the boy was with his family at Jerome Park on Wednesday celebrating a birthday. The boy was playing with other children on the playground, but around 8:15 p.m., the mother realized her son was nowhere to be found.
The Santa Ana Police Department responded to the scene to help search for the boy, using the Orange County Sheriff's Department Air Support Unit helicopter to broadcast a description of the boy over its loudspeaker.
Adolfo Acosta, a business owner in the area, said he did not hesitate to take action when his employee, Miguel Luna, said he saw a boy matching the description that he heard over the loudspeaker.
"I saw that kid and I'm like, 'Oh boss, I think I just saw the kid that they're looking for,'" Luna said.
Acosta and his employees ran to the Ranch Markets next door and frantically searched until they found the suspect, identified as 28-year-old Armando Torreblanca Nunez of Santa Ana, holding the boy's wrist in line.
When they confronted Nunez, he let go of the boy and tried to flee, but a security guard and his employees were able to detain him until police arrived.
The boy's mother said in a statement, "I just want to thank the SAPD for doing an amazing job and the guys that recognized my son and took action by helping get my son away from the bad guy. I will go ... personally today to thank those guys."
Police say they found evidence that showed Nunez intended to kidnap and sexually assault the boy. He has been charged with one felony count of kidnapping to commit a sexual offense.
Nunez made his first court appearance on Friday. His arraignment hearing was continued to Aug. 19.
Outside the courthouse, his mother said Nunez had a good heart, and she doesn't believe the charges.
"I believe he found the boy. That's why he was holding the hand to try to return (him) to the family," she said.
If convicted as charged, Nunez faces a maximum of seven years to life in state prison and lifetime sex offender registration. He is being held on $1 million bail.
In May at the same park, a boy was sexually molested in the bathroom. Police never found a suspect.
"Detectives are looking into that case to see if, in fact, this suspect may be the same suspect," said Cpl. Anthony Bertagna. "At this point, we don't know."