TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Two children were rescued mere minutes after they were kidnapped in a carjacking Monday, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.
Deputy Jonathan Pazmino Alvarez was flagged down Monday around 6:40 p.m. near the area of East 137th Avenue and North 15th Street in Tampa by a man who said his truck had just been stolen with his two young children still inside.
Deputy Pazmino Alvarez immediately chased after the man’s 2011 white Chevrolet Silverado, and without losing sight of the truck, managed to perform a traffic stop within a few minutes.
“Stop the truck now!” Deputy Pazmino Alvarez ordered through his police cruisers speaker system.
Deputies said the man behind the wheel was 37-year-old Kevin Smith, whose criminal history dates back to 2003 in Hillsborough County. Also in the car were two children, ages 4 and 8.
When Pazmino Alvarez approached the vehicle, which stopped in a parking lot, one of the children told the deputy, “This guy robbed my dad’s car.”
Smith was ordered out of the car and arrested without further incident. He faces two counts of felony kidnapping and one count of grand theft of a motor vehicle.
“My priority at that point just was the kids,” Alvarez said. “He just said to me, ‘I’m so glad you were there,’ and I looked back and said, ‘wow, I’m glad I was there too.'”
The two children were not injured during the incident and returned safely to their father.
Before Alvarez was a deputy, he was an aquatics director at YMCA, where he worked with children. He says as soon as he opened the truck door, he was relieved.
“I was just happy to make sure that they were safe,” Alvarez said. “They were crying. They were super upset and as soon as they saw me, they lightened up. They stopped crying and they pointed out like, he’s not my father.”
Deputies added that Smith is currently incarcerated at the Falkenburg Road Jail without bond.
“This situation could’ve been a lot worse had it not been for the swift action taken by Deputy Pazmino Alvarez,” Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister said. “He halted what could have been an otherwise terrifying situation for any parent. Thanks to him, two children are safe and in the arms of their loved ones today.”