Fort Worth, TX – Bodycam footage captured the moment that police stormed a hotel room to rescue an eight-year-old girl who had been forcibly kidnapped from her mother by a stranger (video below).
A man they didn’t know suddenly drove up beside them, then snatched the little girl away from her mother and forced her into his vehicle, according to NBC News.
The girl’s mother fought with the kidnapper, and managed to grab onto a piece of his jewelry before he threw her from the vehicle, police said.
A portion of the altercation was captured by a neighbor’s doorbell camera.
The neighbor heard the distraught mother’s screams, and rushed to help her as the kidnapper sped away with Salem.
“I scoped it out pretty good and, and I know I missed somebody, because when I pushed the woman and grabbed her, I heard somebody screaming,” 51-year-old Michael Webb later said in a recorded interview with investigators.
Police issued an AMBER Alert during the eight-hour search for the little girl, and photos of the suspect’s Ford Five Hundred spread across social media.
“My friend texted me and said Riz’s daughter was kidnapped,” Jeff King told CBS News. “I know the father.”
King reached out to other friends who were already out searching for Salem, then headed over to the crime scene, CNN reported.
He said one of the detectives handling the case told him to keep an eye out for the little girl and the suspect’s vehicle at area hotels, apartment, and parks, King explained.
Shortly after midnight on May 19, a desk clerk at the WoodSpring Suites called 911 to report that she had just received information that someone spotted a man at the hotel that matched the description of the kidnapper, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.
The suspect, later identified as Webb, had a little girl with him.
When Forest Hill Police Sergeant Richardson Wolfe and other officers arrived at the hotel, the clerk directed them to Webb’s room.
After approximately seven minutes of knocking, Webb finally began talking to them through the door, but initially refused to open it.
The officers did not have probable cause to force entry into the room, so they continued speaking with Webb through the door for another eight minutes in an attempt to obtain his consent to search, Forest Hill Police Chief Dennis explained.
“So essentially, they talked their way into the room,” Chief Dennis said. “They spend something like 17 minutes trying to talk their way into that room. They wanted in that room. They really wanted to find that girl. They really pushed the bounds of consent to get into that room, quite frankly.”
Sgt. Wolfe told Webb that he just wanted “to look where a four-foot-five child could be,” and showed him a photo of Salem.
“He said, ‘I’m looking for her. If you’ll just let me in, I don’t care about your drugs or guns or whatever else you’re doing in there, I just want to find the child,’” Chief Dennis explained.
But even though Webb allowed the officers into his room, his willingness to allow them to search quickly began to waver.
“As they got in the room, he’s telling them, ‘I really don’t want you here,’” Chief Dennis said. “That makes our consent pretty tenuous.”
Sgt. Wolfe quickly searched through the hotel room, looking beneath the bed, behind the shower curtain, and inside cabinets and a refrigerator.
“Essentially every piece in the room where you would readily think you could hide a child was open, visible,” the chief noted. “He looked everywhere he thought she could be.”
With Webb’s consent dwindling, the sergeant wrapped up the search approximately 90 seconds after he walked into the room.
“I have to measure these folks against the performance of a reasonable officer,” Chief Dennis explained. “With the consent being as tenuous as it was, he’s basically trying to maintain that consent.”
He mistakenly concluded that Salem was not in the room.
“I told her if she said anything, that I would do something to her parents, and if I was in jail, I would have my friends do it,” Webb later told police, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Investigators later learned that Webb had hidden Salem in a basket beneath a pile of clothes.
Two officers outside the hotel room searched for the suspect’s vehicle using a photo provided to them by Sgt. Wolfe, Chief Dennis said.
The officers mistakenly believed that the car in the photograph – a gray Ford Five Hundred – was a Buick or a Volvo, and left the parking lot without finding it.
Investigators later learned that Webb’s vehicle was sitting in the hotel parking lot at the time.
King and another friend were also searching the area, and happened to spot the alleged kidnapper’s vehicle in the hotel parking lot at approximately 2 a.m., CBS News reported.
They placed a call to 911, which was answered by a Fort Worth Police Department (FWPD) dispatcher, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.
The dispatcher notified Forest Hill police, and also dispatched Fort Worth officers after offering their assistance.
“Fort Worth showed up and took that same evidence and, within minutes, was breaching the door,” Chief Dennis added.
Bodycam footage showed the officers as they hit Webb’s hotel room door with a battering ram.
“Hold on, man! I’m getting dressed!” the suspect yelled out from behind the closed door.
“Open the goddamn door!” one of the officers ordered.
The officer struck the door several more times before the naked suspect was yanked out of the room and into the hallway.
Police rushed into the room to search for Salem, and spotted blood smears on the white bedsheets, the video showed.
“Hey! Here she is!” one officer alerted a second later, as Salem poked her head out of a nearby laundry basket. “We got her – we got her!”
The officer scooped up the little girl and wrapped her in a towel as additional officers wrestled Webb into handcuffs in the hallway, the video showed.
“Come on, sweetheart,” the officers told Salem as they rushed her down a stairwell to safety. “You’re okay. You’re safe. We’ve got you.”
Salem’s father was waiting for police outside.
The little girl was transported to a local hospital, and has since been reunited with her family, CNN reported.
Webb waived his right to be present at his federal kidnapping trial, and the jury deliberated for just 10 minutes before they convicted him in September, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.
On Nov. 14, he was sentenced to life in prison.
“The defendant stole this child’s innocence,” U.S. Attorney Erin Nealy Cox said during the sentencing hearing, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “She knows that there is evil in this world. Evil has a face, and that face is Michael Webb’s.”
Webb has also been indicted in state court for multiple offenses related to the abduction, and that case is still pending.
Sgt. Wolfe, a seven-year veteran-of-the-force, was placed on “indefinite suspension” following the incident, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported at the time.
Chief Dennis said the suspension was due to how the sergeant handled the report about the suspect vehicle being located.
According to civil service rules, an indefinite suspension is the equivalent of being fired, KTVT reported.
“[Two witnesses] had located what was correctly the suspect’s vehicle. He basically discounted that,” Chief Dennis told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “He looked at the suspect vehicle as unrelated and essentially tried to talk them out of it being the right vehicle.”
You can watch footage of the dramatic rescue in the video below: