A pastor who helped to rescue an eight-year-old girl kidnapped in Fort Worth, Texas, on Saturday says that he is no hero, but that God did use him. He believes that, after several hours of searching, God led him and his friend to the hotel where the girl’s assailant was keeping her.
“God literally led us to this place. It was not on my itinerary, we were not trying to go there, we just drove by. It was divine intervention, 100 percent,” said Pastor Jeff King, according to The Christian Post.
Nightmare in a Quiet Neighborhood
Salem Sabatka was on a walk with her mother in Forest Hill, a suburb of Fort Worth, when Michael Webb, 51, drove up next to them in a gray sedan and pulled Salem into the car. The mom attempted to rescue Salem by jumping into the car after her, but Webb pushed the mother out. A neighbor’s doorbell camera recorded the incident. In the footage, you can see the car driving away and hear Salem’s mother running down the street, calling, “Help me! Help me please! My daughter just got kidnapped!”
The call came in to the police at 6:37 p.m. At one point during the search (which lasted roughly eight hours), officers visually inspected the hotel room where Webb was keeping Salem, but didn’t find her at that time. Meanwhile, the residents of Forest Hill were proactive about posting on social media and communicating with one another about what happened so that Salem could be found.
King was at home with his wife when a friend texted him that the daughter of a mutual friend of theirs had just been kidnapped. King told Good Morning America that he sprang into action at that point for two reasons. The first is that, “We’re supposed to work as a community, we’re supposed to love our neighbors, and God makes miracles happen all the time.” The second was that, even though they hadn’t spoken for a while, King had known Salem’s father for years. After learning of the abduction, King went to see Salem’s father and then went to the crime scene. There, a detective advised him to search parks, apartments and hotels. So King and a friend of his began trying to track Salem down.
The two searched for hours until, after midnight, someone told them they should check out a particular hotel. They didn’t find Webb’s car at that hotel, but happened to check out a different hotel 12 miles from where the kidnapping occurred. There, they saw a car matching the description of the one Webb had been in. They called the police, who went to hotel, found Salem and rescued her. Then King got to be the one to call Salem’s father and tell him his daughter was alive and safe.
It is not known what motive Webb had for abducting Salem, as he did not know either her or her mother. His criminal history goes back more than 15 years, with charges including burglary, drug possession, evading arrest and “making a terroristic threat.” Webb was charged with aggravated sexual assault last year, but prosecutors dropped the charges, apparently because the accuser refused to cooperate.
In this case, Webb has been charged with aggravated kidnapping, but is now in federal custody and will likely face both state and federal charges.
A Community Comes Together
Speaking to the community as they celebrated Salem’s return, a police officer thanked the residents for their vigilance: “Remember this guys and gals, in our city, you’re more than our eyes and ears…you are our partners.”