A 5-year-old New York City boy was running down the street a few steps ahead of his mother when a man sitting in a nearby car tried to abduct him — right in front of her.
Her protective motherly instincts kicked in. Now, the boy is home safe and the man is in custody.
The terrifying incident unfolded at about 8 p.m. on Thursday night in Richmond Hill, Queens, when the boy was running in front of 117-02 Hillside Ave. near the corner of Myrtle Ave. with his mother and his siblings, the New York City Police Department said in a statement.
According to a video of the incident the NYPD posted to Twitter, a man can be seen getting out of his car and snatching the boy up. At the time, a man could be seen sitting in the car’s front passenger seat.
The man threw the boy in the back seat of the car as the boy’s mother and others rushed to the car to try to save him.
Frantic, the child’s mother pulled her terrified son through the window to safety.
On Friday, police arrested James McGonagle, 24, of Queens, the NYPD tells PEOPLE in an email.
He is charged with attempted kidnapping, reckless endangerment, and acting in a manner injurious to a child less than 17, the NYPD says.
The heroic mother, identified by ABC 7 Eyewitness News and NBC New York as Dolores Diaz Lopez, 45, said she was on her way to visit her husband at work with her children when McGonagle allegedly tried to take her son, Jacob.
“I said, ‘Oh my God my kids, oh my God my boy,'” Diaz Lopez told ABC7.
She told NBC New York that the car door was locked when she tried to open it.
But her son stood up in the car, enabling her to yank him out of the window to safety, she told ABC7.
McGonagle and the other suspect sped off while she hugged her son extra tightly.
As soon as the man grabbed Jacob, Diaz Lopez said her maternal instincts kicked in and she flew into action.
“You have to do what’s necessary, no matter what,” she told ABC 7. “The car was just parked there. I would never have imagined that a man would get out of the car and grab my son.”
She and her children are still shaken by the incident.
“I’m scared,” she told NBC New York.
She warned other mothers to always be vigilant.
“You always have to be aware of your surroundings and not be on your phone,” she told ABC 7.
“Mothers have to be careful with their children,” she said. “Always hold their hand when walking with them, because there are a lot of evil people and you never know who is near.”
McGonagle has not yet entered a plea. It is unclear whether he has retained an attorney who can speak on his behalf.
Anyone with information is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477).