“Three people who claimed they were trying to rescue a relative from being “brainwashed” by a religious group were arrested for kidnapping, authorities said Saturday.
The suspects were arrested after deputies performed a high-risk traffic stop to end a high-speed chase between two civilian vehicles in the Vista area, San Diego Police Sgt. Patrick Yates said.
The pursuit ended in the 1500 block of Foothill Drive at 5 p.m. Friday.
The pursuit began with four people in a van being chased by another vehicle with a single occupant, Yates said.
“I saw two vans flying out of the entrance of the Twelve Tribes commune. A tan van was just feet from a red van and the the red van’s side door was still open,” said neighbor Tim Harwick.
The first van included a 23-year-old man, a relative of the three other vehicle occupants, who they claimed they rescued from brainwashing at the Twelve Tribes Community Church, Yates said.
The three suspects arrested for kidnapping were Andrews Martinez-Manso, 51, Eliza Martinez, 25, and Robert Harry Matthew, 25, Yates said.
The father of the alleged victim first visited the commune last summer.
“I could feel the tension,” said Christian Joubert, a friend of many in the commune. He says the alleged victim got married last August to a member of the commune, and tells us the man’s father attend the wedding and wasn’t happy about his son being part of the group.
But recently, there was an about-face: that father gifted the commune 20 live chickens.
Joubert now believes that was a ruse. He was told by commune members the father and other family members went to the commune for a planned visit and then forced the man into the van, prompting a commune member to give chase.
“He said he didn’t even think. It’s like your child being kidnapped. You want to give chase. This was his brother,” said Joubert.
The Twelve Tribes Community — with branches across the country – has been dogged by claims of oppression, racism, anti-semitism, which commune leaders reject.
“For my knowledge, there’s no manipulation. There are no threats – do it this way or get out,” said Joubert.
Joubert says the man, a commune member for nearly five years, is back with his wife who is due to give birth in two months.
In a statement, a Twelve Tribes leader says “we are extremely thankful that the young man was successfully returned to our community, unharmed. (As for his rescuer),that young man is a hero.”