COSTA MESA (CBSLA) — A Costa Mesa aesthetician and her driver were kidnapped in Uganda Tuesday and officials say the culprits are asking for a $500,000 ransom.
Tourism police in Uganda have identified 56-year-old Kimberly Sue Endicott as the kidnap victim. She and her guide were kidnapped at gunpoint while they were looking for animals at Queen Elizabeth National Park.
Ugandan officials don’t want to pay the ransom for Endicott. Meanwhile, an elite force is looking for the two.
“The police has dispatched an elite squad from tourism police to report to the security team at Queen Elizabeth National Park and to actively pursue a group of four unknown gunman who allegedly kidnapped an American and a Ugandan senior guide who were on an evening game drive,” said one Ugandan official.
Police said the kidnappers have continued to use the victims’ cellphones to call the lodge where Endicott was staying. Two other tourists on the safari were unharmed.
Members of a conservation group from San Diego were visiting the same game park in Uganda at the time of Endicott’s abduction. By Skype, Tom Hanscom told CBS2 how lucky his group was.
“Timing is everything,” Hanscom said. “We were literally leaving the park as the kidnapped persons were entering the park. So we crossed paths. Our guides spoke to one another. And just to recognize that although this is a very rare occurrence, it did occur and it happened very close to us. And you start to think, ‘wow, that could have been us.'”
Endicott was excited to tour Africa. She shared her hopes about her trip, according to the property manager at the business park where her skincare business is located.
Sarah Spinuzzi heard that an American had been abducted on vacation, but she wasn’t aware it was a woman in her office complex.
“Yeah, I had no idea she worked in my office building. So, it hits close to home. I hope she comes home safe,” Spinuzzi told CBS2 Thursday.
People who work in the building said Endicott was often seen with her French Bulldog and that she loves animals. On her Facebook page, Endicott described herself as an animal activist.
Before she left on her safari, Endicott told an acquaintance the trip was something she had always wanted to do.
On Thursday evening, KCAL9’s Stacey Butler attempted to talk to Endicott’s friends, neighbors and family but she was escorted off the property where Endicott’s condo is located. Neighbors told Butler that the FBI told them and Endicott’s family not to say anything for fear that the captors could hear and use it against her.
Endicott reportedly has a daughter and granddaughter.