OAKLAND -- Hours after authorities reported that a 21-month-old girl had been kidnapped in East Oakland, investigators had searched the house of her father and were focusing on an Oakland shoreline park late Wednesday.

Police were also seeking witnesses who could verify seeing the girl with her father in the last 30 days -- but a police spokeswoman said repeatedly that the father was not a suspect.

The girl's father, John Anthony Webb, told police that just after 11 a.m. he left an elderly relative -- possibly his 87-year-old mother -- and the toddler, Daphne Viola Webb, in his black Ford SUV and went into Gazzali's Supermarket at 78th and International Boulevard.

Authorities are seeking any witnesses who may have seen 21-month-old Daphne Viola Webb with her father, 49-year-old John Anthony Webb, in the past 30 days.
Authorities are seeking any witnesses who may have seen 21-month-old Daphne Viola Webb with her father, 49-year-old John Anthony Webb, in the past 30 days. (Oakland Police Department)

The store's clerk, Daniel Chavez, said Webb bought an energy drink and was in and out of the corner store quickly. Webb told police that he returned to his SUV and found the disabled relative alone and Daphne missing from the back seat.

Investigators immediately interviewed Webb, as well as Daphne's mother -- whose identity was not released -- and other relatives, according to Oakland police Officer Johnna Watson. What the family members said and the state of the relationship between Daphne's mother and father was not known Wednesday evening.

Police and the FBI also spent several hours at a home on Greenridge Drive, where the family has been living, searching the home and talking to neighbors in an attempt to verify the father's story, police said. It was not immediately known Wednesday night what, if anything, was found at the home or what investigators learned.

They then turned their attention to the Martin Luther King Regional Shoreline Park at Doolittle Drive and Swan Way, beginning a search of the park around sunset. Police have not said why they searched the park, which is not far from the Oakland airport.

Watson said late Wednesday that police were searching every place in the city that they knew the father and daughter had recently visited together.

Earlier Wednesday, the California Highway Patrol issued an Amber Alert for Alameda, Contra Costa and San Francisco counties and search focused on the area where the girl was last seen. But police and at least seven search dogs quickly fanned out along International Boulevard and into the side streets in search of the girl and later to other parts of Oakland.

Daphne is described as black, about 2 feet tall and weighing about 30 pounds. She has short, black, curly hair, a medium complexion, brown eyes and is missing part of her left ear. She was last seen wearing an orange, two-piece pajama set with pink hearts and pink socks.

Police said the girl was taken by an unidentified black or Hispanic woman between 30 and 40 years old who had long, straight black hair and was wearing a light-colored shirt and jeans. Witnesses said the woman walked away from the car with the child, and authorities did not identify a vehicle associated with the kidnapping.

A neighbor at Webb's most recent listed address, about half a mile from the site of the kidnapping, said Webb is Daphne's father and had lived there for years with the child's mother as well as his own mother.

The neighbor, Bill Owens, 70, said the family had moved out of the home around Christmas, around the time that Daphne had started walking. Webb had already raised two daughters now in their 20s at the same home, said Owens, who had trained the girls in martial arts when they were younger.

"He's just an all-around great guy," Owens said of Webb, noting that for years, Webb had drawn lines of people to his front door as he gave away food, clothing, bicycles and more. "He knew everybody. He was just always trying to do good.

"John took real good care of his mom. I sure hope this is (just) a family dispute of some sort."

Many young children go missing in Oakland every year, but most are found in a few hours, often with a mother or father involved in a custody battle.

Four years ago, however, a 5-year-old Fremont boy named Hasanni Campbell went missing from a car parked outside a shoe store in Oakland's Rockridge district, on Aug. 10, 2009. Hasanni, who was born with cerebral palsy and wore braces on his feet, was never seen again.

Hasanni and his younger sister lived with their aunt, Jennifer Campbell, who is also their legal guardian, and her fiance, Louis Ross. Police said Ross had parked the car, taken the little girl with him and gone inside the store, where the aunt was working. He told police the boy was gone when he returned to the car.

Three weeks later, the couple were arrested on suspicion of murder, but prosecutors declined to charge them, citing a lack of evidence. The case remains open, and Hasanni has not been found.

Staff writers Harry Harris and Erin Ivie contributed to this report.