The father of a young girl who called 911 after a woman allegedly jumped into the car she and her younger brother were sitting in and drove toward the U.S.-Mexico border is praising her for her quick thinking.
"I'm very proud of her," Rodney Cole said of his 8-year-old daughter, Malaiha Cole.
On Monday, around noon, police in San Diego said Malaiha and Lincoln, 3, stayed inside their father's gold Hyundai, with the engine and air conditioner still running as he ran into a store.
Malaiha told ABC affiliate KGTV she saw a woman look at the car.
"She saw it running and she saw kids in it. Then she just got in it and drove away," Malaiha said.
Rodney Cole, her father, said he ran after the car into traffic but the driver ran a red light and kept going.
"I broke down in the middle of the street," he said.
"I saw my dad coming out the store. Then I started banging on the window and I yelled 'Daddy' but she rolled the window up," Malaiha said.
San Diego police said a witness "observed a light-skinned black female get into the Hyundai and drive away."
Malaiha said she had a cellphone that her father had given to her so she called 911.
"They said '911. ... What's your emergency?'" she said. "And, I said, "Oh, God. Me and my little brother got kidnapped.'"
She said the 911 dispatcher then asked her what she saw through the windows.
"I said, 'I see signs that say Mexico border,'" Malaiha said.
In police radio communication, dispatchers described the family car: "It's an '04 Hyundai Elantra. Four doors. It's missing a hubcap on the passenger side."
"We have units doing a grid search and CHP setting up on the freeways nearby," an officer said.
Malaiha told KGTV that the woman had also tried to take the phone from her and threatened to crash into a wall. She said the driver eventually was able to take the phone away from her.
Police said authorities in the area were notified and the driver, whom they identified as Leslie Esperanza Saenz, was arrested by Border Patrol about 30 minutes after Malaiha's call.
"The vehicle was attempting to cross the border into Mexico. Police arrived at the scene and took the suspect into custody. The two juveniles and stolen car were recovered. There were no injuries suffered and robbery detectives were on scene and are investigating," San Diego police said.
Saenz, 26, faced multiple charges including kidnapping, vehicle theft and making threats. She is scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday.