The father of a teen kidnapped by a carjacking suspect said the teen's coach, who wrestled a gun away from the armed suspect, may have saved his son's life.
"Didn't hit me 'till church that we could have been at a funeral Mass instead of a Christmas Mass," said Kevin Spencer, father of the kidnapped boy. "It kind of hit me right then and there we could have lost our son."
Two days before Christmas, and two days before his wife's birthday, Spencer's 16-year-old son Jack was preparing for upcoming tryouts with his 28-year-old baseball coach, Dylan Graham, at Hickman field in Kearny Mesa when, they say, a man approached them with a handgun.
He forced the duo into the coach's Jeep Latitude and ordered them to drive him to Ramona, according to SDPD Robbery Unit Commander Todd Griffin.
With the coach in the driver’s seat, the teen in the front passenger seat and the suspect in the back, they drove until they reached the mountains near Ramona. The suspect told the pair he would let them go near Ramona, but after making a call, he told them his plans had changed.
Graham said he remembers thinking the suspect was going to kill them, but was just waiting for the right time. He said he began thinking about an escape route to keep he and Jack alive.
When the suspect pulled out a cigarette and began smoking, Graham lunged at the suspect and grabbed his gun.
"He literally took off his seat belt and went in between the two seats and went after the guy," Spencer said.
As they struggled over the weapon, two shots were fired into the roof and the Jeep veered off the road, crashing at San Vicente and Wildcat Canyon roads in Ramona. The coach told the teen to run as he held the suspect at gunpoint.
The victim fired two shots at the suspect’s feet, Griffin said, and the suspect ran away, bleeding from his forehead and hand and holding his leg. Down the road, he carjacked another vehicle. The 79-year-old driver who picked him up eventually jumped out of the car, which was later found abandoned in a parking lot.
Though Graham was not trained for a situation like this, "yet he did it and pulled it off," Spencer said.
And the father said Graham's brave actions saved his son's life.
"If Dylan didn't do what he did, the circumstances could have been vastly different," Spencer said. "It could have been a heck of a lot worse."
Following the struggle, Graham went to the hospital for minor wounds. The former San Diego State University baseball player is recovering now and expected to be okay.
Graham is "a little bumped up and sore, but we've communicated to him out thankfulness for his courage for his actions and very pleased that he's safe and hope that he's feeling better," Spencer said.
Spencer said what Graham and his son did displayed great bravery during a difficult time. In a world with so much negativity, Spencer said, he wanted people to know how Graham, one of the "good guys", helped save a life.
"I don't know if I could have done what my son did, and I certainly don't think I could have done what Dylan did," Spencer said. "Two remarkable kids. I shouldn't call Dylan a kid, but you know to me, he is. But two remarkable young men. And Dylan especially felt the need to protect our son."
The incident turned the last few days of 2015 into an unforgettable miracle for Spencer's parents, who are thankful both their son and Graham are alive and well.
"My wife and I put a spin on it: that probably was the best birthday present she'd ever gotten and certainly a Christmas blessing, that something like this could happen and nobody, thank God, was hurt and everyone's home with their families," Spencer said.
Spencer said they received word the suspect was taken into custody earlier, but authorities have not confirmed that information to NBC7 independently. The investigation is ongoing. If you know anything about the suspect or the incident, call the SDPD at 619-531-2000.