The girl was reported missing from a family member’s home in New Iberia, La., on Sunday afternoon, and police later put out an Amber Alert amid fears that she was in “imminent danger.”
The alert went out at 1 a.m., jolting many — including Dion Merrick and Brandon Antoine — out of their sleep. The alert urged locals to be on the lookout for a kidnapping suspect in a grey 2012 Nissan Altima.
Merrick and Antoine, who work for Pelican Waste and Debris, set out together on their garbage route that morning and spotted the sedan sitting in a field around 7 a.m.
Their minds instantly flashed back to the Amber Alert.
“Something told me … I said, what’s that car doing off in the field like that?” Merrick said in a Facebook Live video from the scene.
“Guess what, that’s the dude with the little girl,” he said.
Merrick and Antonine parked their truck across a laneway road to prevent the car from getting away, then called police and waited at the scene for them to arrive.
In the video, Merrick and Antoine can be seen talking to police and watching from beside their truck while authorities arrest the suspect. The silver car is visible in a field off the road.
“She’s safe right now,” Merrick said in the video. He added that he has a daughter of his own, and the whole episode makes him tear up.
“I was just doing my job, man. I was just doing my job and actually came across somebody who needed help,” Merrick said. “Thank God they got him now.”
Michael R. Sereal, 33, has been charged with aggravated kidnapping of a child and failure to register as a sex offender, jail records show.
Sereal is a sex offender who was convicted of carnal knowledge of a juvenile in 2006, according to the state’s registry.
The girl was taken for a medical evaluation after the incident, local station KATC reports.
Pelican CEO Roddie Matherne praised Merrick and Antoine in a statement to ABC News.
“We couldn’t be prouder of Dion and Brandon,” Matherne said. “This was an exceptional thing that may very well have saved a little girl’s (life).”
The company also celebrated its two employees on Facebook. “Way to go, guys!” it wrote.
“Not all heroes wear capes,” one person wrote in response to the post.
“Pelican Waste taking out the trash,” another added.
Merrick says the incident is a great example of why you should say something if you see something suspicious.
“Don’t be scared if you see something. If you know something is wrong, report it. Call authorities because it could save someone’s life.”