NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A woman said she was holding her niece in Washington Heights this week when out of nowhere, a man grabbed the child.
As CBS2’s Valerie Castro reported, the little girl was safe late Friday – while a suspect appeared in court.
“I was just scared for the baby,” said the woman, “I didn’t really care about me.”
The woman did not want to be identified, but her bandaged up hand was the result of an injury she said happened after fighting with an allege kidnapper.
“I started punching him,” she said. “That’s when I sprained my thumb.”
Video showed the accused man, Jose Martinez, running away after police sources said he tried to snatch up the woman’s 2-year-old niece Thursday night on 192nd Street near St. Nicholas Avenue. The child’s aunt was seen on surveillance video running after him.
“I don’t have kids, so that’s the only baby I have,” she said. “So God forbid.”
She said they had just visited a nearby store and were headed home.
“I’m holding her hand, all of a sudden this guy just comes and grabs the baby through the waist and put her towards his chest — and starts running away with the baby,” she said.
The woman said she was able quickly to grab her niece away from the man and hand her off to a relative.
“She’s great,” the woman said. “Thank God he didn’t get to harm her. I reacted right away.”
After the woman tussled with the suspect, he ran. She chased him, and eventually others joined in.
“Then I started screaming and the neighborhood helped me, and from there they started punching him too,” she said.
They eventually caught up to the man in the middle of a street and held him until police arrived.
As CBS2’s Andrea Grymes reported, Martinez was arraigned Friday evening on several charges including kidnapping and assault. An assistant district attorney said there was no way to know what he would have done to the child if her aunt and others had not intervened.
Martinez’s own attorney described him as a hardworking dishwasher, but now he is an accused kidnapper.
The prosecutors said Martinez was visibly intoxicated when he snatched the girl away from her aunt in Washington heights.
In court, Martinez’s attorney called the charges “serious,” but said when everything gets sorted out, it will be clear that he was not intentionally trying to take the child.