• Good Samaritans thwart car theft attempt in Arizona, police say

    By: Ann Smajstrla, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

    Updated:
    PHOENIX -

    Several bystanders helped stopped a couple who were attempting to steal a car with a 2-year-old girl in it, according to authorities.

    >> Read more trending news 

    Phoenix, Arizona, police say 26-year-old Joe Velazquez and 25-year-old Cynthia Gracia coaxed a man away from his car Monday when he was in the parking lot of a grocery store, AzFamily.com reported. The couple then took off in the vehicle with the 2-year-old in the back seat, police said.

    The two drove the car around a corner before ditching it, possibly after realizing the girl was inside, according to police.

    Meanwhile, Ernaldo Varela was driving home when he saw a commotion on the side of the road and pulled over to help. He told local media that he saw a man running away from car -- it was Velasquez.

    Varela decided to run after him.

    “I instantly snapped. And, you know, I ran after him," Varela told KPNX-TV. "When I hear he was trying to take a baby, I could not let him get away."

    Velasquez ran through a residential area, but Varela eventually caught up with him and pinned him down. Velasquez pulled out a knife, Varela said.

    "He swung at me a couple times, missed, finally he got my finger, that’s when I let go,” Varela said.

    However, Velasquez didn’t make it far. Police said they caught him soon after and arrested him.

    A few blocks away, 14-year-old Leandra Baron confronted Gracia, AzFamily.com reported. Gracia had hopped the fence into Baron’s backyard, Baron told the news station.

    “She started crying,” Baron said. “Like, 'Please don’t call the cops,' and I’m like, 'We already called them, there’s no point.'”

    Baron kept Gracia pinned to the ground until police arrived and arrested her.

    The toddler was found safe, still strapped into the car. Velasquez and Gracia were booked into jail.

    The girl’s grandfather offered to buy Varela new shoes, since his previously white shoes became stained with blood when Velasquez cut his finger, KPNX-TV reported. But Varela said he was just happy to help.

    Next Up: