Two Louisiana sanitation workers on their regular morning route did more than just pick up trash when they rescued a 10-year-old girl who had been kidnapped, officials said.
During their morning rounds Monday, Dion Merrick and Brandon Antoine said they spotted a silver sedan in the middle of a field in St. Martin Parish, Louisiana, about 20 miles northeast of New Iberia. The car matched the description of one connected to an earlier Amber Alert and that was when the pair jumped into action, ABC News reported.
Merrick and Antoine called 911 and used the garage truck to block in the vehicle until the police arrived.
Merrick told NBC Louisiana he "didn't second guess it for a minute." “‘I said, ‘for the car to be parked in this location, and it matches the description and the Amber Alert, something’s not right,'" he said.
Jalisa Lasalle was reported missing from a family member's residence between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. on Sunday. Police said she was seen getting into a gray 2012 Nissan Altima. The driver of the car was identified as Michael Sereal, 33, of New Iberia. State Police say he is an acquaintance of one of the girl's family members, according to the New Iberia police, KATC3 News reported.
Lasalle appeared unharmed and was being evaluated by medical personnel, authorities said.
Sereal was arrested by police Monday. He is being held without bond in the Iberia Parish jail on a charge of aggravated kidnapping of a child and failure to register as a sex offender, records show. He is listed on the sex offender database and was convicted in 2016 of carnal knowledge of a juvenile.
As he was being led away by police, Sereal could be heard yelling on video of the incident saying, “Why are you doing this to me?”
It is unclear whether Sereal has retained an attorney, ABC News reported.
“When the cop took the little girl out of the car, I am not exactly sure what she said, but it sounded like she said 'I thank y'all' and from there I just started crying," Antoine told NBC News.
“I just saved that little girl’s life,” Merrick said on Facebook Live. “They got him now.”
When Lasalle first went missing on Sunday night, state police issued a a Level II Endangered/ Missing Child Advisory alert, saying the little girl was believed to be "in imminent danger." However, no Amber Alert was issued because there was not a license plate number or specific description of the vehicle she was in. Both are required for an Amber Alert to be issued, KATC3 reported.
Once police received a license plate number and specific description of the vehicle, an Amber Alert was issued, according to police. State Police had to call another agency to send out the Amber Alert out since police said “the program said it was working, (but) it wasn’t.” KATC3 News said that the company that maintains the program is working to fix the issue.
Police said they had not sent out a statewide Amber Alert since 2018 and they do not have regular tests. This all may now change, said police, the news station reported.
Roddie Matherne, CEO of the Louisiana-based waste management company, Pelican Waste & Debris, told Inside Edition Digital in an email statement how proud he was to have heroes among his workforce.
"At Pelican Waste we strive for a family atmosphere and try to emanate that to our workers. We are super proud of the genuine efforts by these valued employees now and always," Matherne said. "In fact, all of our Pelican Waste team have been heroically working without fail during the pandemic quietly, professionally, and consistently serving the communities where we collect garbage & debris. They often respond in other ways while on the road. This was an exceptional thing that may very well have saved a little girl’s life."