STUDIO CITY, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A 27-year-old Las Vegas man was arrested for allegedly holding a pregnant woman at gunpoint and stealing her two French bulldogs in Studio City, police announced.
The Los Angeles Police Department said Monday they were able to track down the suspect, Sammeiso Lewis, after he tried to extort the victim using a phone of a man he met on a dating website.
"A witness from the website recalled overhearing Lewis discussing the dogs during a conversation and was able to provide Lewis' physical description and dating application," LAPD said in a statement.
Using the information provided, detectives conducted several search warrant and identified Lewis, police said. He was arrested Jan. 26 and pleaded not guilty to robbery.
The dognapping happened the morning of Dec. 9 when Cindy Nelson, who was nine months pregnant at the time, was out walking her dogs in the 4100 block of Kraft Avenue.
A man stepped out of a parked car, Nelson said, and pointed a gun at her while demanding she give him her two French bulldogs.
Investigators say the man who took the dogs gave them to a stranger on the street who then contacted the Nelson family. The Nelsons and their French bulldogs were soon reunited.
But police say before Lewis handed over the dog, he called the owners asking for $1,000 ransom.
"Ultimately, it was through citizens linked to that extortion attempt that led to the identity of the suspect in this case," LAPD detective Noah Stone said.
Detectives from the LAPD's North Hollywood Division offered a series of safety tips for pet owners, including:
-- stay visible in public settings with significant light while walking your dog;
-- utilize dog chips with GPS for your dogs;
-- don't leave dogs unattended in public;
-- install security cameras around your residence to monitor your pets and intruders; and
-- keep current photos of your dog.
French bulldogs have become a common target of thieves due to their value. In 2021, a man walking Lady Gaga's French bulldogs was shot by culprits who made off with two of the animals, which were later recovered.
City News Service contributed to this report.