San Leandro police are searching for a man accused of making a violent attempt to kidnap a 23-year-old woman as she headed to work Thursday morning. He was thwarted by a good Samaritan, they said.
NBC Bay Area caught up with the man who police say likely saved the woman's life. Yong-Sung Leal said he doesn't consider himself a hero.
“You don’t have to be tough to do the right thing," Leal said. "Just react."
Leal explained what he saw and why he reacted the way he did.
"I see the perpetrator trying to pull this girl into his car and while he’s macing her," Leal said. "She was very brave; she did the best she could.
"I pulled her ankle out; her torso was almost in the vehicle," Leal continued. "He was macing me, and we were running around his car. Eventually he got into his vehicle."
The incident was reported just before 8 a.m. in the 14700 block of busy Washington Avenue, police said.
Lt. Ron Clark of the San Leandro Police Department called the attack "completely random" and "disturbing." Without Leal's intervention, "she could have ended up the next body [dumped] somewhere else," Clark said, adding that "there is no way to know."
Witnesses also said that if Leal hadn't stepped in to help the woman, the attempted kidnapping could have ended in tragedy.
Investigators worked with the victim and witnesses to create a suspect sketch. He is described as a well-dressed man in a collared shirt, who calmly parallel parked his car, jumped out and maced the woman.
"She was incapacitated by the mace," Clark said. "She wasn’t in a position to fight back ... but she actually felt her feet enter the car."
That's when Leal, who was driving by, stopped and fought off the suspect, prompting him to flee in his car.
"I wish we were able to contain him," Leal said. "At least she’s all right; that’s all that matters."
Bruce Burns, a painter who was working on the roof of a nearby apartment building, said he saw two men fighting across the street and noticed "there was a girl, too."
Burns didn’t know it at the time, but he was witnessing an attempted abduction.
"Everybody could see it," he said, because the man tried to grab the woman in "crazy, broad daylight."
Clark said both the victim and Leal were treated at the scene for chemical exposure because the suspect sprayed mace in their faces. Police are afraid the attempted kidnapper might strike again.
"Kidnapping is pretty scary," Burns said.
Detectives have set up a hotline dedicated to this case and are asking people with information to call (510) 577-3259.