Abducted boy found alive, in good condition, in Las Vegas
LAS VEGAS — A 6-year-old boy kidnapped from a Las Vegas home by alleged drug dealers posing as policemen has been found alive in a neighborhood northeast of the Las Vegas Strip, police said early Sunday.
The child was “in extremely good condition” and had been taken to University Medical Center in Las Vegas for examination, Las Vegas police Capt. Vincent Cannito said at a news conference.
“He is safe and in our custody,” Cannito said. “It’s a blessing this child has been found.”
Cole Puffinburger was recovered at around 10:30 p.m. Saturday after a caller informed detectives about a child walking alone on a street in a middle-class neighborhood of tidy, modest-sized homes about 5 miles from the Las Vegas Strip, Las Vegas police Officer Jay Rivera said.
Detectives discovered Cole outside a large Methodist church in the neighborhood. The area was being treated as a crime scene, but police gave no information about how Cole got there or where he had been kept since his Wednesday morning abduction.
The child was kidnapped at gunpoint by men who tied up the boy’s mother and her boyfriend and ransacked their home.
Cole’s father attended the news conference wearing a T-shirt with his son’s photograph, but would not comment on when he planned to see his son or whether Cole would be returning to his home or the boy’s mother’s home.
“This is just about Cole being home,” Robert Puffinburger said as he choked back tears. “Cole’s back.”
Authorities arrested Cole’s grandfather Clemens Tinnemeyer late Friday in connection with the boy’s disappearance. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that Tinnemeyer was Cole’s maternal grandfather.
Police believe that the abductors were Mexican drug dealers and that the kidnapping at gunpoint was a “message” to Tinnemeyer, 51, whom they said may have stolen millions of dollars from dealers.
Tinnemeyer was arrested in Riverside, Calif., and was being held in nearby San Bernardino on a material witness warrant issued by a federal court in Nevada.
Officer Cris Johnson, a Las Vegas police spokesman, declined to say what role Tinnemeyer played in the drug operation or whether the kidnappers had been seeking a ransom.
Police believe methamphetamine was involved, Johnson said.
Las Vegas police didn’t know Saturday whether Tinnemeyer had a lawyer. He was scheduled to appear before a federal magistrate Monday in Riverside.
Authorities investigating the abduction were also focussing on two other men, including a Mexican citizen identified as Jesus Gastelum.
Gastelum, who is in his mid-30s, is believed to be in Las Vegas or Southern California, police said. The other “person of interest” was not identified.
Police and child advocates had concentrated their search efforts on a largely Hispanic neighborhood a few miles from where Cole was found. They distributed fliers in English and Spanish with a photograph of Cole, a slight, smiling blonde in glasses.
Robert Puffinburger said he had just stopped passing out the fliers for the night when he got the call alerting him Cole had been found.
“I’m just so glad he’s safe,” he said.