Amber Alert went out 5 hours after child was allegedly kidnapped at Paso park. Here’s why

Police waited five hours to issue an Amber Alert on Wednesday after a woman allegedly kidnapped her 1-year-old child at knifepoint from a Paso Robles park because they believed the suspect and her mother were still in the county.

Rashawna Bullock, 25, was holding her son, Namaste Dix, when she allegedly pulled a knife on a county Child Welfare Services worker about 9:15 a.m. in Barney Schwartz Park, said Sgt. Tod Rehner of the Paso Robles Police Department.

Police say Bullock demanded the child welfare worker’s cell phone and then fled with her son when he didn’t comply. Rashawna Bullock drove off in a waiting car with her mother, 50-year-old Serbina Bullock, although she’d driven herself to the visit, Rehner said.

For months, Rashawna Bullock, who’s been living in San Miguel, has been embroiled in a series of custody and domestic violence disputes with Namaste’s father, according to county Superior Court records. County Child Welfare Services has custody of the child, Rehner said.

The CHP didn’t send out an Amber Alert until about 2 p.m. — about five hours after Bullock allegedly took him from the park.

Rehner said police initially had information suggesting the Bullocks were still in the county, so officers first tried looking for them locally and at known addresses.

“Amber Alert is a very useful tool, but it needs to be used diligently,” he said.

When it appeared the Bullocks might be fleeing the area with Namaste, police requested the CHP send an Amber Alert, Rehner said.

Rashawna Bullock, left, and her mother, Serbina Bullock, as pictured in their San Luis Obispo County Jail booking photos. The two were arrested after Rashawna allegedly abducted her son at knifepoint from a supervised visit in a Paso Robles park. San Luis Obispo County Jail

When are Amber Alerts sent?

Amber Alerts are issued only when a confirmed abduction has taken place, when the victim is 17 years old or younger, when there’s reason to believe the child is in imminent danger and when officials believe the public could help locate the abductee, according to the CHP website.

Amber Alerts aren’t always issued in parental abduction cases, but the alleged knifepoint kidnapping and concerns about Bullock’s mental state prompted police to take action, he said.

During his 22-year career, Rehner said he’s only requested two Amber Alerts and one Silver Alert, which is issued for victims who are 65 or older and are developmentally disabled or cognitively impaired, according to the CHP.

Police requested the alert be sent to a wide area because they believed the Bullocks were on the run, Rehner said.

Rehner said the Bullocks likely saw the Amber Alert, because they were trying to switch vehicles when Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department deputies found them near Calabasas.

Rashawna Bullock was arrested on suspicion of kidnapping, criminal conspiracy, attempted robbery, assault with a deadly weapon and criminal threats. Serbina Bullock was arrested on suspicion of kidnapping and criminal conspiracy.

They both remain in custody in the San Luis Obispo County Jail in lieu of $100,000 bail each, as of Thursday afternoon.

“Citizens on the ground helped catch them, which is what an Amber Alert is designed to do,” Rehner said.

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Lindsey Holden writes about housing, North County communities and everything in between for The Tribune in San Luis Obispo. She became a staff writer in 2016 after working for the Rockford Register Star in Illinois. Lindsey is a native Californian raised in the Midwest and earned degrees from DePaul and Northwestern universities.