A couple who stopped for gas in Kansas City, Mo., got the scare of a lifetime as the two thwarted a man's plan to steal their vehicle with their 6-month-old baby in the backseat, police said.
Melanie and Aaron Richman were in the final hours of their move from Colorado to Missouri Monday night when they pulled into a gas station to fuel up. Melanie's mother and brother were part of the family caravan, each driving rented moving trucks. The Richman's two other children, ages 5 and 6, were riding with their grandmother.
The gas station's surveillance cameras captured what initially looked like a routine trip. The Richmans parked their 1997 Pontiac Grand Am, pumped gas, took a trip to the restroom and tried to entertain their 6-month-old daughter, Samantha, who was strapped into her car seat.
"I'm just jumping on the tail end of the car, making it go up and down, just trying to keep her occupied and entertained," Aaron Richman, 22, said. "Just letting my guard down for that split second, everything went to hell."
For a moment, the Richmans walked a few yards from their car to speak with relatives. That's when the surveillance tape showed a man getting into their car, and taking off.
Melanie Richman described her worst nightmare as a parent: "You're never going to see your baby again."
"If he got through the parking lot, we would never see our child," Aaron Richman said, recalling the moment he saw a man take off in their car.
Without thinking, both young parents raced after the car.
"It was really just instinct," Aaron Richmond said. "Everything happened so fast. We really had to react. There was no time to worry about if he had a weapon."
Melanie Richman, 24, said she grabbed onto the moving car as it dragged her through the parking lot, and was able to break the passenger side window with her elbow.
"Holding on for dear life, wherever she was going to go, I was going to go with him," she said.
Somehow, her husband managed to dive into the car.
"I was just sitting upside down in the passenger seat kicking him and telling him my baby was in the car. 'You're stealing my car. Get out of my car,'" he said.
Under attack, the would-be carjacker drove onto a curb and ran off. The couple suffered bruises and cuts. Their baby was covered in glass but otherwise unharmed.
The suspect is still at large.
Police Marvel at Couple's Determination After Carjacking
The Kansas City police detective investigating this case marveled at the strength of these young parents.
"There have been times when police have tried to break car windows using our police batons. It's very difficult," Detective Kristin Kincheloe said.
She usually warns victims against chasing criminals but calls these parents heroes.
"When a parent is trying to save a child, all bets are off," she said.
The Richmans, settling into their new home, see their story as a cautionary tale.
"You can't let your guard down at any point in time, you know what I mean?" Aaron Richman said.
"Life changes in a second," his wife added.
On this Thanksgiving, Melanie Richman described what she's most grateful for. "Words don't even describe it," she said. "Having the baby, my husband, being safe and being in the new house. It's totally wonderful. Nobody could ask for more."