San Francisco police have made an arrest in connection with the high-profile kidnapping of two children who were taken Saturday night when their father’s minivan was stolen in Pacific Heights.
Erlin Obani Romero, 25, of San Francisco, was taken into custody Tuesday at around 11 a.m. near Crisp Road and Palou Avenue in the Bayview, according to police. A second suspect remains at large.
The kidnapping garnered national attention after authorities issued an Amber Alert for assistance finding the missing children on Saturday night.
The children, Winnifred and Sean Fang, ages 4 and 1, were recovered hours later on Sunday morning when police found the stolen vehicle in the Bayview.
The kids were waiting in a vehicle for their father Jeffrey Fang, a gig worker for the company DoorDash, to deliver food at around 8:50 p.m. on Jackson Street between Fillmore and Steiner streets when the kidnapping happened.
The case went viral on social media after Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez, a friend of Jeffrey Fang and a reporter at KQED, asked the public for help finding the children Saturday night.
A GoFundMe page Fitzgerald Rodriguez set up for the family to “take some needed time off” has since collected more than $140,000.
Romero was arrested on suspicion of kidnapping, auto theft, robbery, conspiracy, battery and a probation violation, according to police.
The District Attorney’s Office is expected to make a charging decision in the case by Thursday, according to District Attorney Chesa Boudin.
“It’s great news that the children were returned home to their family safe and sound,” Boudin said in a Facebook live event. “We’re all tremendously relieved about that.”
Romero has no prior convictions, Boudin said, but has been arrested twice in San Francisco in connection with a robbery last January and a stolen vehicle last August.
On both occasions, the District Attorney’s Office filed felony charges against him. Prosecutors also sought to detain Romero without bail in the robbery case, but a judge denied the request and instead set bail at $25,000.
Romero spent about 135 days in jail over several different stints after his first arrest, according to the office. He was only ever released from custody on electronic monitoring.
“The electronic monitoring, it turns out, was a critical part of the investigation that led to his arrest,” Boudin said.
Boudin said Romero is on a waitlist for a collaborative courts program that would have “hopefully disrupted this cycle of arrests, jail and release,” but has not been accepted because the system is backlogged and understaffed.
“We need more resources, we need more case managers and we need more tools for supervision of people who are caught up with a bad crowd or otherwise engaged in the legal system,” Boudin said.
Police have not released a description of the second suspect in the kidnapping. The case remains under investigation.