A young girl abducted from a south Ft. Worth, Texas community on Saturday, May 18, was rescued by police early Sunday morning and is safe. Salem Sabatka, 8, was snatched while out walking with her mother. The kidnapping was filmed in a dramatic video that eventually led to the abuductor’s arrest.
Here’s what you need to know about the kidnapping of Salem Sabatka and how a neighbor’s dramatic video helped community members find her.
1. Sabatka Was Abducted While She & Her Mother Were Out for a Walk
Sabatka and her mother were walking along the 2900 block of 6th Avenue in Ft. Worth when a man approached the little girl and snatched her at approximately 6:38 p.m. Sabatka’s mother attempted to jump into the car but was pushed out by the kidnapper before he drove off. “The mother was literally thrown from the vehicle,” Ft. Worth Police Spokesperson Buddy Calzada said, explaining that she started running down the street, frantically screaming for neighbors to help her. “HELP ME! HELP ME, PLEASE! MY DAUGHTER JUST GOT KIDNAPPED! HELP ME! OH MY GOD!” she cried out.
Police asked community members to be on the lookout for a gray Ford 500, a four-door sedan with little or no tint and alloy wheels. Police noted that the car had a paper tag.
Sabatka was described as 4’5″ with brown hair and “very distinct” blue eyes and was wearing a teal shirt with the word “Centennial” across it, as well as periwinkle seafoam green leggings. Members of the media questioned why it took several hours for Sabatka’s Amber Alert to be released. Calzada explained that due to the number of agencies involved, alerts take longer to issue compared to information which can be quickly distributed on social media.
During their search for Sabatka, the Fort Worth Police Department enlisted the help of multiple departments and agencies including the entire Major Case Unit, Special Response Team, Surveillance Camera Registry and Monitoring (SCRAM) Team, Homeland Security as well as the Department of Public Safety. Neighboring police departments also offered their assistance.
2. The Suspect has Been Identified as Michael Webb
Law enforcement has identified Sabatka’s kidnapper as Michael Webb. Webb was described as a bald black male who is 51 years old. Authorities have not disclosed if Webb had a prior criminal history and have not disclosed a motive. Law enforcement was able to confirm that Webb is not related to Sabatka.
During the press update, Calzada said that Webb is facing potential charges of aggravated kidnapping which is classified as a first degree felony. No other information about Webb has been made public.
3. The Suspect Was Located by Church Members
Sabatka was safely retrieved after two members of a local church started their own search for the young girl and the suspect’s car. The vehicle was located at a Woodspring Suites hotel located in the 4100 block of California Parkway East in Forest Hill, a suburb of Ft. Worth. “Two members of a church here went out, saw the vehicle called it in, called Ft. Worth Police, Ft. Worth officers arrived on scene,” Calzada said. After calling in the vehicle police were able to successfully match the car with the suspect, determine his whereabouts in the hotel and then forcibly enter his room.
“I can’t go into the full details of what they did here but I can tell you they did breach one of the doors here and were able to locate Salem safely,” Calzada revealed, adding that Salem was rescued and found safe at 2:00 a.m. Sunday morning. Police were at the hotel investigating throughout the night and witnesses reported Webb’s car being towed by police around 6 a.m.
4. Sabatka Appeared to be Unharmed
Calzada indicated that Sabatka appeared to be unharmed but was transported by MedStar to a nearby hospital where she was reunited with her family. He described the little girl’s demeanor as “calm” when police found her.
Calzada recounted how he and other officers were listening in on a radio as the police entered the hotel room and discovered Sabatka. “It put a huge smile on my face and it took alot of darkness off of my heart, just knowing this young girl is going to be ok,” he said.
5. Police are Crediting the Public With Solving Sabatka’s Kidnapping
“We had so many people coming up and asking what we can do,” Calzada said, adding that they told members of the public to just take the photos distributed by law enforcement and start looking for the car and Sabatka. Calling community members “heroes” and thanking both the media and the public, Calzada said,”You guys were a huge asset to helping Salem be found safe…This story, right now, would put a smile on anybody’s face.”