An unarmed customs inspector, faced with a fleeing suspect holding his 1-year-old son hostage, talked the man into giving up the child in return for a chance to cross into Mexico.
Eddie Price, 35, had taken his son and fled his west Los Angeles home, a pack of police on his tail, when officers tried to arrest him on burglary charges Monday.A two-hour chase ended with Price stuck in traffic at the San Ysidro border crossing. He jumped into the back seat of his car and grabbed his son from his safety seat, holding a 3- to 4-inch knife to the child's throat, then his own.
Customs inspector Al Morales, who had gone to help his fellow agents, found himself beside the car as at least 20 officers drew their guns and surrounded the vehicle. Price said he would release his son only if police let him cross the border.
"When he picked up the kid, we made eye contact," Morales said. "I started talking to him through the broken window. I told him to calm down and to not harm the baby. I kept saying it over and over, and he just kept saying he wanted to go to Mexico."
Morales, who had no background in crisis negotiations, talked Price into taking the knife off the baby. He assured him that the officers wouldn't shoot and the baby wasn't at risk.
Price got out of the car but got back in when police told Morales to back away and let them take over.
"I could look in his eyes and could tell I could trust him," Price told reporters later. "I couldn't trust anybody else there. He was the only one."
Morales coaxed Price out again, agreeing to let him cross the border if he gave up the child. He walked Price to the border, where Price tossed his son to Morales and tried to dash away, but was tackled by police.
Authorities said the boy was returned to his mother.