MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Police still haven’t caught the teen who carjacked a woman outside a Parkway Village shopping center with her two small kids in the back seat.
Fortunately, police found the kids safe a short time later after the suspect crashed the car about a mile away.
"This could have been real bad, this could have been real bad." said Louis Brownlee, public information officer for the Memphis Police Department. "We’re thankful that the children were found safe."
Now, their mother has been slapped with a citation for child neglect and endangerment, but she says there’s more to the story.
It all began at the Dollar General near Perkins and Knight Arnold.
That’s when mother of two, Erendira Gomez, who spoke to WREG through a translator, says she stopped to grab a soda and ran into a friend, who agreed to keep an eye on her 3-year-old and 2-month-old kids so she could quickly run in.
"She told me go and I’ll stay here watching your kids," she said.
But as she was walking back outside, she says a teen shoved her down and drove off in her car with her kids still strapped into their car seats.
"I said, ‘Oh, my kids, my kids, my car they are taking them!'" Gomez said.
Her first instinct was to flag down another driver and chase after her car.
"I was in shock," she said. "I didn’t know what to do. But at the same time, a guy was passing in a white car and I opened his door and I got into his car."
But that man didn’t speak Spanish, so he took Gomez back to the Dollar General store, where they called police.
Within 15 minutes, Gomez says police found her car crashed at an apartment complex near Winchester and Perkins, with her kids safe in the back seat.
She believes the one thing that may have saved their lives was the fact that her car was on empty, and the thief knew he couldn’t get far.
"That’s what saved us, I think, because the car from when I turned it on, it had the gas signal on," Gomez said.
Memphis Police issued Gomez a citation, and she has to face a judge next week.
A tough lesson to learn, and a mistake she says she won’t make again.
"Don’t leave your kids in the car..." she said. "Even if someone says they’ll watch it, it’s better to not chance it."
The suspect is described as a black 14-year-old boy, about 5'2" and 120 pounds with a dark complexion, wearing a white shirt and red basketball shorts.
If you know anything that could help investigators, call Crime Stoppers at 528-CASH.