SPRAGUE, Wash. – Authorities arrested a 15-year-old suspect on Wednesday in connection with the attempted toddler abduction at the town’s park that made national headlines.
Lincoln County Sheriff Wade Magers said investigators were able to identify the teen once video surveillance footage from Sunday’s incident showing the suspect running down the sidewalk with the boy, 22-month-old Owen Wright, in his arms was enhanced. Deputies conducted surveillance on the teen and served a search warrant on his home Wednesday.
“Good Morning America,” the “CBS Evening News” and other national media outlets have broadcast the surveillance footage, which also shows the toddler’s brother and sister chasing the kidnapper.
Authorities credit Owen’s siblings, as well as two Sprague teenagers who later joined the chase, for stopping the abduction.
One of the siblings identified the 15-year-old suspect from his picture, Magers said.
Magers said the teen is a longtime resident of the town of about 500 people but declined to release further details on how the boy was identified and arrested. Magers said the teen is not being identified because he is a minor.
“There’s a lot we can’t go into right now,” he said.
The 15-year-old has been booked on a second-degree kidnapping charge. The investigation has been forwarded to Lincoln County prosecutors to determine if additional criminal charges will be filed.
Delicia Wright, 8, and Brenden Wright, 10, said a man approached them and their brother, Owen, at the park around noon Sunday. At a news conference that the family held in Spokane on Wednesday evening, Delicia said the person who abducted Owen told her and her siblings that “he was nice to kids,” that he was 19 and had experience baby-sitting.
Michael Wright, the children’s father, said the kids were staying for the weekend with a family friend who lives in Sprague adjacent to the park. That friend allowed the children to go to the park unattended.
The Wright family lives in Spokane and Delicia and Brenden attend Browne Elementary School.
Michael Wright said the decision to let his kids be at the park unattended was “an honest mistake” that he attributes to the family friend living in a small town where residents don’t think much about serious crime.
When the perpetrator snatched Owen, Delicia screamed and took off after him. Brenden followed, too.
It was those screams that alerted teenagers Isaac Yow and his friend, Andrew Crain. The suspect came running down C Street and crossed First Street in front of Kathy’s Family Foods, where Yow and Crain chased him across a vacant lot. At the edge of the lot the suspect put the toddler down and ran away, Yow said.
“I picked the baby up,” he said. “I took the baby over to the sister.”
Yow and Crain took up the chase again but could not locate the suspect.
“By the time we rounded the corner, he was nowhere to be seen.”
Yow was shaken when he found out that the suspect had been identified as a local teen.
“It’s scarier because the person lives here,” he said. “It’s probably someone I went to school with.”
The toddler’s sister should be getting the credit for saving her brother, Yow said.
“She is the one who told me and Andrew what was wrong,” he said. “I’m not a hero. All I did was chase after this guy.”
Michael Wright said he’s amazed by the courage his older children displayed in chasing the perpetrator.
“They have a motherly instinct,” he said. “We’re going to watch each other closer and even more diligently than we did before.”
The Wright family also has thanked Yow and Crain. If they hadn’t joined the chase “Owen may not be here today,” Michael Wright said.
Sometime today, Delicia and Brenden’s aunt, Tana Williams, will make a shopping trip.
She’s promised to buy her niece and nephew capes, “for her superheroes.”
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