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Man Who Allegedly Kidnapped 3-Year-Old Sparks Police Pursuit in Santa Maria

Child safe, suspect in custody after chase lasts for nearly an hour and reaches speeds as high as 80 mph

An SUV used in an hour-long police pursuit in and around Santa Maria sits in the intersection of the 800 block of West Tunnell Street. The suspect driving the vehicle was taken into custody and a 3-year-old child who was inside the entire time was rescued unharmed. Click to view larger
An SUV used in an hour-long police pursuit in and around Santa Maria sits in the intersection of the 800 block of West Tunnell Street. The suspect driving the vehicle was taken into custody and a 3-year-old child who was inside the entire time was rescued unharmed. (Santa Maria Police Department photo via Twitter)
Paul Maldonado Click to view larger
Paul Maldonado

A kidnapping suspect was taken into custody Saturday night after an hour-long police chase around the Santa Maria Valley — all the while with a 3-year-old child in the vehicle.

According to Santa Maria police Lt. Russ Mengel, officers responded to a report of an assault with a deadly weapon just before 5:30 p.m. in the 800 block of West Flores Way, a block west of the Santa Maria Fairpark.

He said it appeared that someone had been run over by a vehicle, and officers determined that a man had driven off in a Ford Explorer with a child inside and a door open.

“A scary situation,” Mengel said.

Police caught up with the driver, but he refused to pull over when officers attempted to conduct a traffic stop.

Santa Maria police were joined by Santa Barbara County sheriff’s deputies and California Highway Patrol officers in pursuing the vehicle “for a long period of time,”​ Mengel said.

“We were all over,” he said, explaining that the pursuit went from the “eastside to the westside, literally.”

Although a CHP spike strip failed to stop the SUV, it punctured a rear tire. With a helicopter monitoring the situation from the air, officers backed off and the driver eventually stopped at about 6:20 p.m. in the 800 block of West Tunnell Street, off of North Railroad Avenue north of West Main Street.

Mengel said police quickly swooped in to safely grab the child, who was not in a car seat. The child was not hurt, he added.

“That was the fear the entire time,” Mengel said, adding that the supervisor monitoring the pursuit did an amazing job weighing the various factors involved.

“Our fear was that the child was going to be harmed by the suspect if he was allowed to get away with the child,” he said.

Authorities identified the suspect as Paul Maldonado, 30, of Santa Maria.

He was booked into Santa Barbara County Jail on charges of domestic assault, kidnapping, child endangerment, assault with a deadly weapon, reckless evading, DUI on drugs and alcohol, and driving without a license

Mengel said the pursuit reached speeds that generally were above posted limits, but raced up to 80 mph on some roadways.

Investigators were still sorting out the circumstances that prompted the incident, but believe the suspect and the child’s mother previously had a dating relationship.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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