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Suspect steals SUV with 11-year-old inside in East Harlem; father and son recount frightening ordeal

Suspect steals SUV with 11-year-old inside in East Harlem 01:49

NEW YORK -- A little boy is home safe after a frightening ordeal in East Harlem.

His father's car was stolen while he was in it, and the thief was caught in the act on camera.

"I couldn't sleep last night, just thinking what could have gone wrong," David Perez told CBS2's Jenna DeAngelis.

Perez is grateful his son Dahniel is here, safe, but says he's still in shock after someone stole his SUV with the 11-year-old inside.

"I left my car unattended with him inside of it for a split second, and that's all it took," Perez said.

It happened Sunday around 8 p.m. Perez parked in front of an East Harlem grocery store on Third Avenue, ran in to grab a few items and left the car running with Dahniel in the passenger seat.

When he came outside, his car and son were gone.

"He took off, started doing 100 on the freeway, and just, like, it was all crazy," Dahniel said. "He crashed twice while I was in the car ... I texted my dad, 'Dad help.'"

Perez had already called police and was tracking his son's iPhone, which he just recently purchased.

"When I got him the cell phone, I told him to keep the location on just in case anything happens, and it turns out that came in handy," Perez said.

Police are searching for a man accused of stealing a car in East Harlem while an 11-year-old child was inside on Feb. 20, 2022. NYPD Crime Stoppers

Police say the suspect had the child in the car for about 20 minutes before dropping him in the Bronx at the corner of Bolton and Lafayette avenues.

"He let me out in the middle of nowhere," Dahniel said.

"It felt like a movie. My son called me and he was just crying hysterical," Perez said.

Thankfully, the two were reunited by police who are still searching for the suspect.

The car was recovered but damaged, and Perez says his laptop and other items are missing.

"I really don't care about as long as my son is good," Perez said.

An important lesson learned for this father, with a message to all parents -- never leave your car running unattended, especially with a child inside.

Police say the suspect also sideswiped two cars. No injuries have been reported.

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