Oakland police have arrested the father of a missing 21-month-old girl for felony child endangerment after he claimed the child disappeared Wednesday when he left her in a car with his elderly mother who suffers from dementia. An Amber Alert was issued for Daphne Viola Webb on Wednesday afternoon after the father, John Webb, told police she was abducted by a stranger around 11 a.m. while she sat in a parked car outside Gazza Supermarket in East Oakland with his 87-year-old mother. Police swarmed the neighborhood around the market, located at 7838 International Blvd., and found at least one witness who claimed to have seen a woman walking away from the area with a child, police spokeswoman Officer Johnna Watson said. The woman was described as black or Hispanic and in her 30s, with long black hair. She was wearing a light-colored top and blue jeans, police said.
However, at a news conference at police headquarters this morning, it appeared police were turning their focus to 49-year-old Webb himself. Investigators spent the night at the home in the 8000 block of Greenridge Drive, off of Keller Avenue, where Webb lives with his mother and Daphne, Watson said. Police also set out Wednesday to begin searching the Martin Luther King Jr. Regional Shoreline near Doolittle Drive and Swan Way — an area Watson said Webb is known to frequent with his young daughter. She said authorities are using police dogs and helicopters to scour the area, and that later today a crew on a boat will use an underwater robot to search the water there. Watson said police are trying to create a timeline of events and are asking anyone who saw Webb with his daughter on Wednesday or anytime recently to call them at (510) 238-3641. “We are looking at all aspects and to see if any foul play was involved,” Watson said. She said that despite the attention given to the father, police
still consider the disappearance a missing persons case and a kidnapping. Webb was arrested because police are “concerned” that he allegedly left the child in the care of his mother, who has dementia, while he went inside the store, Watson said. He will likely be released from custody today, she said. Daphne’s mother lives at a separate location, but investigators have been in contact with her, Watson said. The family is cooperative, she said.
Police and the FBI are working around the clock to track down Daphne, she said. “Our primary focus is on finding her safely,” Watson said. Daphne is described as black, with short, curly black hair and brown eyes. She was last seen wearing orange two-piece pajamas with pink hearts, and pink socks.
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