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Schwarzenegger calls good Samaritan 'true action hero'

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Amber alert 'hero' honored
  • California governor honors Victor Perez
  • Good Samaritan meets mother of abducted girl
  • Perez has been hailed as hero since Tuesday's incident

(CNN) -- Accolades for the good Samaritan who rescued an abducted girl continued to roll in Thursday as California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger called Victor Perez a "true action hero."

The city of Fresno proclaimed the day "Victor Perez Day" and sponsored the visit from Schwarzenegger, who said the abduction of the girl, 8, "had a great and heroic end."

Early Tuesday, Perez, 29, chased after a vehicle carrying the girl, who had been sexually assaulted hours earlier.

"Thank you for stepping in and never even thinking twice," Mayor Ashley Swearengin told Perez, a father of two boys.

Perez has been on a whirlwind of more than a dozen television appearances. Wednesday he had the opportunity to meet with the girl's mother.

"I never thought there would be someone with such a big heart to rescue my daughter and risk your life," CNN affiliate KFSN quoted her as saying.

An unemployed construction carpenter, Perez has been recently cutting wine grapes, earning minimum wage.

The governor called for an employer to hire him.

Perez said he is happy the girl and mother are back together.

Around 6:45 a.m. Tuesday, Perez was outside his house talking with his cousin about the abduction when they saw a vehicle matching the suspect vehicle's description: an older-model, reddish-brown Chevrolet with a white stripe on the side.

"I thought, that could be the truck," Perez told CNN.

That's when he sprang into action. He jumped into his 1988 white Ford pickup and followed the vehicle, cutting in four times before he eventually forced it to a stop.

Immediately after the truck stopped, he saw that the girl was out. Perez said he believes the driver pushed her out.

"I was beyond scared," he said.

The chase had taken him about a mile from his house and into another neighborhood. He yelled for residents to get the girl a blanket.

About 40 minutes later, police caught up with the truck, then parked, and arrested Gregorio Gonzalez, 24, of Fresno. Charges against him will include kidnapping, false imprisonment and sexual assault, Police Chief Jerry Dyer said. The suspect was not armed.