As his father drove from California toward Nevada, breathlessly repeating prayers while wearing a football helmet and steering erratically across the freeway, a 12-year-old boy made an emergency phone call from the passenger seat, telling dispatchers he was concerned about his safety.
The call from the boy, whom authorities are calling "brave," led to his rescue and safe return to family members.
Dispatchers from the California Highway Patrol received a call around 5 p.m. Oct. 26 from a boy who said he was in the car with his father, who was behaving in an alarming way, said California Highway Patrol Lt. Joe Dominguez.
"Um, I need help," the boy can be heard saying a couple of times on the 911 call, a copy of which was shared with The Times. "My dad is trying to take me to Vegas, he's acting weird."
The father and son had been at a family party earlier that day in South Los Angeles when the father asked his son if he wanted to go to the park and play football, Dominguez said. He left the party with his son without telling anyone, Dominguez said. But after the boy got in the car, he realized something was wrong. His father put on a Las Vegas Raiders helmet and told his son they were heading to Vegas, Dominguez said.
The boy tried calling family, and then he called 911.
"I'm surprised he's letting me talk," the boy, who told dispatchers his parents were divorced, said at one point early in the call.
Three dispatchers worked to find the car's location and even briefly spoke with the father, who was unresponsive to their questions and speaking rapidly in Spanish, mostly praying about the end of the world, said Alicia Villegas, one of the dispatchers who handled the call.
The boy told dispatchers the type of car in which he and his father were traveling, described where they were by using landmarks, exit signs and road signs, and detailed the vehicles around him and what their license plates were. They were driving between 40 and 50 mph, the boy said on the call. At one point, he said his father almost crashed.
"He was very good, he was very calm," Villegas said of the boy. "He was brave." Prank calls from children can be common, she said, but "when a child calls on their parents, something is really wrong."
"You can hear the seriousness in his voice," Villegas said.
At one point, the boy saw officers on the highway, but they passed, according to the recording of the call log. Villegas instructed the boy to roll down the window and wave at officers when he saw them again.
It was around 6:10 p.m. when CHP authorities located the car in the Rancho Cucamonga area, Dominguez said.
The father, Luis Emmanuel Enriquez, 32, was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence and child endangerment, Dominguez said.
The boy's family was called and he was returned home safely, he added.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.