Neighbors react after 3-month-old Brandon Cuellar kidnapped from San Jose home found safe

SJPD says a suspect seen on video kidnapping Brandon brought a baby carrier and this was a targeted kidnapping.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022
Neighbors react after infant kidnapped from SJ home found safe
Three-month-old Brandon Cuellar, kidnapped from his San Jose home on Monday, has been found and 3 suspects are in custody, police said.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- 3-month-old Brandon Cuellar was found Tuesday morning, nearly 24 hours after San Jose police say he was taken from his grandmother's home.

Police had been searching for a man seen in surveillance video and it was a tip that finally got Brandon back home.

It was just after 1 p.m. Monday when baby Brandon Cuellar was reported missing.

His grandmother told police that she was unloading groceries with the 3-month-old in the house.

Asking for the public's help Monday evening, police released surveillance footage showing a man with a baby carrier, casually walking along Elm Street. And in exclusive footage shared with ABC7 News, timestamps uncover that same man then leaving, only five minutes later.

"Right then and there, I thought that was the guy," neighbor Marc Arce said.

Arce's surveillance camera gave our only glimpse of the kidnapping, instrumental in the police's investigation.

"You can just tell, when he was walking towards the house, or the apartment, it was light," Arce described. "And when he had it walking back, it looked like there was some weight in there."

The kidnapping led to a massive search for the baby that involved the FBI.

Now, three suspects are in custody with some connection to the family, though police aren't specifying.

"There's still much more for the detectives to do," SJPD Assist. Police Chief told reporters on Tuesday. "So I wouldn't want to give any information that could, you know, impede that investigation."

In large part thanks to an employee of a nursing home employee whose facility is just across the street from a home where Brandon was found.

"One of my employees that works here felt a little bit suspicious and saw something that was out of character," said Chris Martinez who is the facility's director of operations. His employee wished to be unnamed and did not want to speak to reporters.

What she saw was a van, a silver 2011 Nissan Quest with a distinct sticker on the back window.

Around 4:50 a.m. California Highway Patrol tweeted out a picture, description and license plate of the van.

That tweet was later deleted with San Jose police telling ABC7 News that they couldn't confirm the CHP information.

It's still unknown why the two agencies had the breakdown in communication.

But the tweet was up long enough for that vehicle information to come out and is what led that employee to notice the van.

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Martinez was there just after that employee called the police and witnessed what happened.

"(She) saw that something was a little bit out of place. She saw the vehicle, she made a call to San Jose P.D.," Martinez said, "Eventually, then the San Jose Police Department did show up and they went right over and they blocked the vehicle both the front and the back and they went to the alleged suspect's house and at that point, they went they invaded the home."

Maria Alvarado, who has a 3-month-old herself, says she lives just under the home that police invaded.

She said in Spanish that she was shocked to hear so much commotion outside of her home and police officers. In disbelief that the missing 3-month-old baby was so close.

Monday morning at the scene, at least five officers with vests that said San Jose Police Gang Unit were seen carrying evidence from that home.

The police did not elaborate on why the special team was there.

They say one of the three suspects in custody includes the man seen in that surveillance video. A woman who was with the child's grandmother before he was abducted was also detained.

Police say that the initial investigation shows a link between the family and the suspects.

They say the investigation into what happened, and how the baby spent the last 20 hours continues.

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The College Park neighborhood at Elm Street essentially stood still Monday night after investigators and police left the apartment where 3-month-old Brandon was kidnapped.

Tuesday morning, neighbors woke up to much-needed good news that young Brandon was found safe.

"As soon as I heard the baby has been found, I just cried," neighbor Stephanie said.

"We were up all night talking how it happened, refreshing Twitter, everything right?" neighbor Kassandra Ramirez said. "So this morning was just turning the news on and it was good news. I'm shaking talking about it. Just relieved and overwhelmed for sure with a lot of emotion and happiness."

Knowing it was so easy to abduct the child sent fear into neighbor Stephanie, a neighbor who did not want to be shown on camera.

"When we found out that it was a kidnapping of a 3-month-old, I was just, I couldn't imagine," Stephanie said. "My heart went in sync, it ran into anxiety. I just couldn't keep my mind off of it. Went to dinner, still couldn't keep my mind off of it because there was a baby missing."

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From sadness and fear to excitement and relief as neighbors were overjoyed to hear the baby is back with his family once again.

"Super relieved for the mom, for the family," neighbor Leandra Duran said, "It's scary but glad he was found safe in a short amount of time too."

"Welcome home baby Brandon!" Ramirez said.

Other neighbors are still trying to make sense of the kidnapping they say seems targeted.

"When they said a baby was taken, that was very hard for me. Because I have a lot of grandchildren and a lot of great grandchildren," the family's downstairs neighbor who asked to be identified only as Elva said.

She added, every aspect of the case has made her emotional.

"Who could come into your home with a little baby bed to carry this child out?" Elva asked, "Who could be so daring? Who could be so ugly?"

Baby Brandon is now safe with his family who told police they wanted their privacy and did not speak at this time.

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