A Lodi woman had picked up her child from school and was walking home when a man approached, asked for directions and struck up a conversation.
Before long, the woman and her children would be kidnapped at gunpoint, forced to go to a bank and then threatened if they did not keep silent.
But three days later, police got wind of the robbery/kidnapping Friday and are now looking for several suspects.
Nobody was injured during the Tuesday incident, Detective Leo Ramirez said, but police worry that there could be other victims.
"It appears that these people know what they're doing. They don't just pick anybody," he said.
All people involved speak Spanish, but police said there's no way of knowing who the suspects could target next. The bottom line, Ramirez said, is to be careful who you trust.
The woman, whom police did not identify, was walking home near Eden and Garfield streets when a man in his 50s approached her and asked for directions, Ramirez said. He was friendly and mature, so by the time they reached the woman's home, they'd had a whole conversation.
The man asked for a drink of water, which the woman gave him, and he left.
An hour later, the man was back. He'd followed her directions but got lost. The hour of walking had made him thirsty, so the woman went to get another glass of water.
"By the time she returned to the living room, the suspect was sitting next to the child," Ramirez said. "He produced a weapon - a handgun - and demanded jewelry and cash."
The woman said she had nothing, but then a second man came to the door and stood there, while the other man rummaged through the home.
And then the older man mentioned a bank account.
He ordered the woman and two of her three children to get into a car, threatening that the other man would harm her third child if she did not comply.
• A short, heavy-set Hispanic man in his 50s with a light mustache. At the time of the crime, he was wearing a white shirt and black pants.
• A Hispanic man about age 45, 5 feet 6 inches tall, with a medium build and a mustache.
• A thin woman about age 25, 5 feet 4 inches tall, with a light complexion.
Anyone with information on the case may call Lodi Police at
333-6727. Anonymous callers, who may be eligible for a cash reward,
may contact Lodi-Area Crime Stoppers at 333-6771.
They drove to the bank, where the woman withdrew cash. Then the suspect and the driver, a younger woman, returned the woman and children to her neighborhood. They left, disappearing in the light brown, four-door car.
The woman followed their orders not to call police, but someone else found out and reported it, Ramirez said.
Investigators confirmed that the money was withdrawn at that time, and witnesses had seen the suspects in the neighborhood, the detective said.
The crime happened the same day a teenage girl reported that a man approached her in a Lodi bank parking lot, held a knife to her back and threatened to harm her 6-month-old baby if she did not give him cash from her bank account.
That report, also involving Spanish-speaking people, remains under investigation and it is not known if it is related to the other crime.