HACKENSACK — A 21-year-old man is in custody after police say his attempt to kidnap a woman at knifepoint was thwarted by a bystander who chose to intervene.

The 52-year-old victim told the Hackensack police that she was near the intersection of Passaic Street and First Street around 3 p.m. when her attacker approached her with a kitchen knife. Capt. Michael Antista said the man forced her to walk two blocks in an attempt to get her into a house, but someone heard her scream.

Willy Ortiz, Jr. told ABC 7 Eyewitness News that he approached them and asked the woman if she was alright. When it was clear she wasn't, Ortiz pulled out his box cutter.

"I saw a kitchen knife on her neck, right on her neck," Ortiz said. "He was just walking and guiding her, and you could see she was frightened."

Willy Ortiz, Jr. speaks to ABC 7. (ABC 7)
Willy Ortiz, Jr. speaks to ABC 7. (ABC 7)

The attacker, identified as Esben Sarabe, fled but not before taking the victim's cell phone and bag, Antista said. Ortiz said his dad called 911 and a neighbor showed up just in time to give chase.

"I jumped in my jeep and looked for him," the unnamed neighbor told ABC 7. "Went around the block and found him running behind a restaurant. He was standing there. I don't know if he was scared or what, but I told him not to move and just stay there, and he did."

Sgt. John Dalton and Sgt. Sean Briggs arrived to arrest Sarabe and recovered the victim's belongings, according to Antista. Released surveillance footage appeared to show Sarabe fleeing from the scene.

Video shows Sarabe fleeing from the scene, according to Hackensack police. (ABC 7)
Video shows Sarabe fleeing from the scene, according to Hackensack police. (ABC 7)

"We can't stress how much the two Samaritans who saw and called 911, how much they definitely helped in getting this predator off the street," Briggs told ABC 7.

Antista said the woman was unharmed.

Sarabe turns 21 years old on Wednesday and is celebrating his birthday at Bergen County jail. He is charged with kidnapping, armed robbery, weapons possession charges, and terroristic threats.

Rick Rickman is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at richard.rickman@townsquaremedia.com

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