Oakland couple makes plea for return of priceless wedding photos after car break-in

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- Weddings are supposed to be happy, and this one was, but what followed was heartbreak that has a couple and their photographer making a public plea for someone to bring back their priceless memories.

Rosalee Nguyen wanted a traditional Vietnamese wedding, to honor her parents. "We wear the traditional garb, the Vietnamese garb, the bride and groom," she said.

Her husband Jabber came from New York, and so did photographer Hassan Mokaddam, who was excited to visit California. "Because of how beautiful it is, and how much good things I hear about it," Mokaddam said.

But that excitement turned to horror at the entrance to Redwood Regional Park where Makaddam and his team got out of their truck to find a good spot for portraits of the newlywed couple. "I honestly was just in a state of shock. I couldn't believe it happened so quickly," he said.

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A family from Charlotte, North Carolina is in the Bay Area to spread their loved ones ashes. But someone broke into their rental car and took the ashes from the trunk.

Within minutes, the back window of the truck had been broken, and everything inside of value was taken. He called Nguyen, who was on the way there. "I mean it was kind of surreal, like what do you mean, everything was taken?" she later recalled.

The police report shows $20,000 in camera gear, a purse, and two laptops were among the stolen items. "It doesn't happen like that in New York," Mokaddam said. "In New York, you would never get away with that."

But the equipment wasn't the biggest problem. Inside the camera was a tiny memory card containing all of the photos from Nguyen's wedding. And in the bag, a hard drive with all of the photos from two other weddings. "They're memories that are irreplaceable -- shots of family," Nguyen said.

Photos are especially important in the Vietnamese tradition. They're given as keepsakes. "Every family, they get their pictures taken with the bride and groom, and that's what's used to personally thank each guest," Nguyen explained.

Makaddam was frustrated to learn Oakland police rarely respond to car break-ins. "I actually felt like we were alone, I felt like no one was there to help us, no one was there to tell us anything. We lost our stuff, cops never showed up, we wrote a report," he said.

Police declined our request for an interview. The newlywed couple hopes someone who ends up with the memory card and hard drive will do the right thing. "Drop them off somewhere, have somebody else drop it off. At a grocery store, attention somebody, please return to ABC7," Nguyen said.
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