Ask any parent what their worst nightmare is, and most will respond with someone taking their child.
It’s hard to imagine what one might do in a scenario like this, but this father, unfortunately, found out exactly what such a scenario is like.
Freddie Cantrell lives across the street from Regional Park in Auburn, and often brings his children there. He, his ex-wife, and their children love spending time there as often as the weather allows.
One night in 2018, however, Cantrell got a call no parent ever wants to receive. His ex-wife rang for him on his cellphone when she and her new husband were watching their children at that park.
“I got a phone call from my ex-wife telling me that I need to come down quickly. She said ‘Someone just tried to kidnap our daughter, Aubrey’,” Cantrell recalled.
Aubrey’s sister Natalie, 6, was right next to her sister when it happened.
“Some unknown guy just came here, started dragging her. He attempted to run over and take her with him,” little Natalie told CBS Sacramento.
Cantrell, who had rushed immediately to the park across from his home, ran to the aid of his daughter. His ex-wife and her husband were still running to catch the almost-kidnapper before he got away, and Cantrell arrived just in time to head him off in the opposite direction.
“He was wearing handcuffs wrapped across his fingers and tried to use them on me. He intended to make them seem like brass knuckles and punch me with them. I had no other option than to act immediately and knock him out,” Cantrell explained.
The perpetrator was eventually identified as 26-year-old Yonel Hernandez-Velasco. Deputies arrived at the scene shortly after the man was knocked out, and they charged him with attempted kidnapping and assault with a deadly weapon.
April McGuinness, a neighbor and witness to the crime, told the news outlet, “We watch the news every day, we are aware of the bad things happening to other people. We just hope that something like that will never happen to our children.”
Her 11-year-old son, beside her, added, “I can’t imagine what would happen if the roles switched and I was the victim. Usually, I come here alone.”
Neighbors have expressed relief that the perpetrator was captured immediately and that they were impressed by Cantrell’s take-down of the criminal.
“I heard so many people praising me and telling me ‘Oh, you’re such a hero, you saved the girl’, and I don’t know what else to respond then to tell them ‘That little girl is my daughter, and I must protect her at any cost,’” Cantrell said.
His story spread when his ex-wife chose to share the events on Facebook. Her post spread like wildfire, amassing hundreds of comments and over 1,000 shares. Commenters praised Cantrell for his quick thinking and bravery while expressing fear over threats to children such as this.
It has not been released if Hernandez-Velasco was under the influence of alcohol or illegal substances at the time of the incident. He did have bloodwork done to determine and confirm his identity, and he was booked at Auburn Jail for both charges. His bail was set at $1.2 million.
We commend Contrell and his ex-wife for their bravery in the face of something so terrifying for parents.
Watch the news coverage of the incident below and let us know what you think about Aubrey’s rescue!