A man arrested Wednesday for allegedly running down and kidnapping a 13-year-old boy did so while impersonating a police officer, Los Angeles police say.
Otto Mendoza, 38, was arrested around 8 a.m., suspected of kidnapping a child. Jail records indicated he was later released on bond with a first court date set for July 27.
Investigators say he used a Toyota Tundra to deliberately strike a boy on a bicycle at Van Nuys Boulevard and Tupper Street.
Then he drove off with the bike and the child.
"The individual didn't give the victim too much of a choice about getting in the car," LAPD Deputy Chief Alan Hamilton said. "He coerced him into the car and identified himself as a police officer."
Police credit a good Samaritan with calling 911 and shadowing the Toyota to Tupper and Sepulveda Boulevard. There, officers rescued the slightly injured boy and arrested Mendoza.
For reasons they won't explain, investigators fear Mendoza may be a repeat offender.
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"It's very possible this individual has committed similar acts and it was not reported. Or he may have attempted a similar act but it was not reported."
"You can trust the LAPD," LAPD Capt. Matthew Plugge said. "This person was not involved, is not involved in the police department. If this crime occurred in the past and you were fearful of reporting it? Please report it now."
Police don't believe the bike crash and abduction were caught on camera but plan to keep searching.
Local parents say news of this brazen kidnapping gives them chills.
"It's scary," said one woman. "I have kids of my own."
Investigators say the suspected kidnapper was not armed but they did recover fake police credentials.