Brayan Villarreal, Major League Baseball relief pitcher for the Detroit Tigers, revealed that his family home in Venezuela was the scene of a terrifying kidnapping attempt on Friday, according to Enrique Rojas for ESPN. Villarreal’s agent Hector Gomez shared a frightening report of what happened when three armed robbers invaded the house:
“The guys put a gun in the mouth of Brayan’s father and his little 14-year-old brother, threatening that they would return and kidnap everybody if they said anything to the police. When the authorities reached the house to investigate if something was going on, they threatened everyone to not open the door.”
A quick-thinking neighbor who noticed suspicious activity phoned the police, alerting them that there might be a problem. The robbers left, although they threatened to return in the future, causing the family to leave their home for the time being.
Tom Gage for The Detroit News confirmed that Brayan Villarreal’s family was unharmed and that he wouldn’t be forced to leave spring training. Although he didn’t play today, he is scheduled for tomorrow’s game against the Braves.
For many people, the incident brings back bad memories of November 2011’s kidnapping of Wilson Ramos, a Washington Nationals catcher who is also a native of Venezuela. As described by David Brown for Yahoo! Sports, the 24-year-old was kidnapped by four armed men.
The kidnapping sparked international outrage, as well as a nationwide search throughout Venezuela, said an ABC report by Michael S. James, Kevin Dolak, and Christina Caron. After the abandoned SUV used in the abduction was discovered, the authorities were able to stage a dramatic air rescue to free Ramos and capture five of the kidnappers.
The current US Department of State advisory for Venezuela doesn’t mince words:
“Violent crime is a serious problem, and the capital city of Caracas has been cited as having one of the highest per capita homicide rates in the world. Kidnappings, assaults, and robberies occur throughout the country; no areas are safe from the high levels of crime.”
Baseball fans are thankful that an alert neighbor helped protect Brayan Villarreal’s family from being kidnapped or even killed.
[photo courtesy Keith Allison and flickr]