WATERFORD, CA — When a woman walked into a Waterford gas station last week saying she had been kidnapped and her armed abductors were waiting outside, the cashier dialed 911, handed the woman the cellphone and locked her inside a restroom. And even though she doesn’t want to be called a hero, authorities say the cashier’s actions saved the woman’s life.
The woman walked in to the Triple R Gas And Mart station Wednesday “begging for help,” the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department said in a Facebook post over the weekend. The woman had been abducted by multiple men from Fresno County and sexually assaulted.
“This woman came in, grabbed me asked me for help and told me she was kidnapped,” the cashier told Patch. Patch is not identifying the woman to protect her identity. “She said the guys had her cellphone, threw it out the window and were holding her at gunpoint and sexually assaulted her.”
The woman told the cashier her abductors had stopped for gas and were headed to San Francisco.
“When she grabbed me she was terribly shaking,” the cashier said. “In her eyes you could see she had no pupils. Her eyes were so shaky. She was very scared. I would say petrified.”
Surveillance footage obtained by ABC News showed the clerk escort the woman to a restroom and lock her inside after handing her a cellphone. The clerk then unlocked the door to let the alleged kidnappers into the store.
The cashier said she knew the abductors.
“I was very confused,” she said. “The guys she was with are my regular customers. I would see them every day, sometimes three times a day. So I was a little bit confused.”
The cashier said she wasn’t concerned for her own safety and tried to stay as calm as possible.
“They didn’t even know I was helping the girl,” the cashier said. “They had no idea that the girl came in and called the sheriff.
She unlocked the door and one of the suspects came into the store. Minutes later, officers swarmed the station with their firearms pointed at the suspects. They suspects started “freaking out,” the cashier said. (Get Patch real-time email alerts for the latest news from your California neighborhood. Also, download the free Patch iPhone app or free Patch Android app. Also, be sure to follow your local Patch on Facebook!)
“The one that I was inside with was asking me ‘Please don’t open the door. Hide me. Put me where that girl is,'” she said.
Three youths were taken into custody along with 18-year-old Anthony Sandoval. Sgt. Tom Letras told Patch that one of the suspects tried to hide a handgun on a shelf. Another was found in the suspects’ car.
The suspects were affiliated with the Norteños, a violent street gang based in northern California, Letras said. The gas station clerk knew at least some of the suspects, all from the Waterford area, because they frequented the store.
Letras said Wednesday’s incident started a day earlier when the four suspects planned to rob someone at another gas station just outside of town.
“They robbed a guy at gunpoint and then from there they decided to go to Fresno County,” he said. “They ended up coming across this girl and held her against her will overnight and she was sexually assaulted.”
Letras noted that not all four suspects sexually assaulted the victim. The following day, the suspects drove back to Waterford and stopped to get gas. The victim was rescued after telling her abductors she needed to use the restroom.
“She tells the clerk, ‘Help! They have guns. They’re going to kill me. They’re not letting me go,” Letras said.
Two suspects were taken into custody at the scene. Investigators later identified and arrested two additional suspects in the case.
“Since all this has went down, two of the suspects have basically confessed and corroborated our victim’s story as to the chain of events and things that happened, including the robbery that the sexual assault victim wasn’t even there for,” Letras said.
The victim was an adult but authorities didn’t immediately know her age.
The sheriff’s office called the gas station attendant “a true hero.”
“When we work together, we can do great things in our community,” the office said.
The gas station worker doesn’t want to be called a hero and is just glad she got to help the woman.
Authorities say the suspects face charges including armed robbery, sexual assault, gun counts and kidnapping.
Letras told Patch his office cannot release the surveillance video. He noted authorities have not received any credible threats against the gas station attendant — whose name was not released by the sheriff’s office — but was concerned about possible gang retaliation.
Photo: Mugshot of Anthony Sandoval via Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department
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