Las Vegas police were still searching Wednesday evening for a 6-year-old boy kidnapped at gunpoint from his northeast valley home in the morning.
Cole Puffinburger, a first-grader at Stanford Elementary School, was taken by three Hispanic men after they tied up his mother and her fiance at gunpoint, authorities said.
Police said two, possibly three, men claimed to be police officers before they entered the house on Cherry Grove Avenue, near Hollywood and Lake Mead boulevards, about 7:15 a.m.
The men demanded money, and the boy’s mother and her fiance told them they didn’t have any, police said. The men used zip ties to restrain the two, gagged them and searched the house, police said.
When they didn’t find any money, the men took the boy and fled in a vehicle, police said. Police didn’t have a description of the vehicle.
Department spokesman Jacinto Rivera said the men did not leave a ransom note or make any mention of ransom to the couple.
At a news conference on Wednesday evening, Capt. Vincent Cannito said the abduction was not random.
"This family was targeted in the attack," he said.
He said specifically that no family members were involved in the kidnapping — the boy’s parents divorced in 2005 — but he declined to say what relationship, if any, the men had with the family.
A few tips have come in, he said, and police are following up on them.
"There is a very real possibility the suspects are Mexican nationals," Cannito said, noting that it’s also possible they are headed across the border to Mexico.
Authorities issued an Amber Alert for the Southwest region of the country after police received a description of one of the suspects. The alert notifies motorists on freeways through road signs to be on the lookout for the boy or the men.
Cannito also described the search as "national."
"No tip is too small," he said in asking for the public’s assistance.
He said two of the men were believed to have been inside the house and one outside when the kidnapping took place.
The crime shook residents in the working-class neighborhood nestled against the base of Frenchman Mountain
"He’s a very friendly little guy," next-door neighbor Kay J. Bates, 62, said of Cole. "Not knowing where he is has to be one of the most horrific feelings."
Bates said she was friendly with Cole’s mother, Julie, and the two would always wave to her. "I gave her a hug in her driveway one time, and he came over and gave me a hug," she said. "He’s really sweet."
Children in the neighborhood said they didn’t know Cole well, and other neighbors said his mother was protective of him.
Kylie Hoggatt, 18, who lives down the street, said Cole was a "good kid" who sounded more mature than he was.
On at least five occasions, most recently on Tuesday, Hoggatt said, Cole called her about her black lab being loose and returned the dog to her.
"He always plays with my dog," she said.
One of the suspects is described as having black, shoulder-length, slicked-back hair. He is in his early 30s, 5 feet 7 inches tall and about 150 pounds. He was last seen wearing a white T-shirt and blue jeans.
Cole is 3 feet 11 inches tall, 48 pounds and has distinctly stained front teeth. He has blond hair and blue eyes.
The boy was last seen wearing a black John Cena WWE wrestling shirt, dark jeans, a belt, black Vans shoes, white socks and a black, zip-up hooded sweat shirt with white, black and blue stars over it.
"I don’t know if I feel that safe now," Bates said. "I’ve been shook up all day."
As neighborhood children ran up and down the street in front of a row of television news cameras, tears welled up in Bates’ eyes.
"I’m praying that Cole will be found and that he’s returned," she said.
Anybody with information on Cole’s whereabouts is encouraged to call police at 828-3111.
Review-Journal writer Brian Haynes contributed to this report. Contact reporter Lawrence Mower at lmower @reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0440.