Police say suspect beat girlfriend, then drove away with 14-year-old boy and 3-year-old girl
Police are seeking a Taft man wanted for multiple felony counts after a spousal abuse case turned into a brief kidnapping and assault with a deadly weapon involving the suspect's girlfriend and her two children.
Police said the suspect, Robert Gutschlag, 42, drove a van for more than a mile with a 14-year-old boy changing out of the van as the teen tried to get his three-year-old sister way from the violence.
Gutschlag is wanted for two counts of kidnap, two counts of false imprisonment, two counts of child endangerment, one count of assault with a deadly weapon and one count of spousal abuse.
Taft Police Lt. Pete Aranda said the incident started in the parking lot at Outpost Foods, 509 Sixth St., late Sunday morning.
Aranda said police were told Gutschlag and his girlfriend, whose name is being withheld, became involved in an argument and he started hitting the woman repeatedly with his fist.
The boy tried to get in through a sliding side door of the minivan to remove the 3-year-old girl, who was in a child safety seat.
At that point, Aranda said, Gutschlag sped away with the boy hanging out of the van.
Several other people saw the incident and followed the van in their vehicles and one was able to get in front of the van at Highway 119 and Cedar Street and blocked it.
The boy was able to free the young girl and they got out and the woman in the front seat also exited the vehicle.
Aranda said Gutschlag then tried to run the woman over before fleeing eastbound on Cedar Street.
The minivan was later found abandoned in a rural area near Copus Road and Highway 99, and police believe that Gutschlag may have fled the area, possibly to Southern California .