The attempted kidnapping started with a bear hug, police said.
But the woman giving the hug was a complete stranger to the 12-year-old California girl receiving it.
“And then she started walking with me away,” Amy Martinez, the girl, told KTLA. She had been walking to her school in Santa Ana, Calif., on Wednesday just before 8 a.m. when the incident occurred.
Immediately, Amy began to yell for help, she told KTLA. The woman who had grabbed hold of her wouldn’t let go, though, and tried to reassure the girl in Spanish that she shouldn’t cry. (This despite the fact that Amy says she “wasn’t even crying.”)
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That’s when a woman driving past noticed the odd situation. At first, police said, the woman who saw what was unfolding wondered if it was just an ordinary mother struggling with her preteen child, CBS LA reports.
But the woman who had a hold of the girl appeared homeless and had messy hair, police told CBS. Something just didn’t seem right about it all. And so the woman decided to turn her car around and swing back past Amy, she told police.
“Amy was kind of struggling to get away, so then those were the signs that something wasn't right,” the woman, who declined to be named, told ABC 7.
At that point the good Samaritan rolled down the window of her car, pulled over to the side of the road and asked Amy if she was doing alright, ABC reports.
Amy told her no.
“I’ll never forget the way she looked at me,” the woman told NBC Los Angeles. “Her eyes were screaming for help.”
At that point, the woman’s “motherly instincts” kicked in, she told police, and she told the kidnapping suspect: “That’s my child, give her back to me.” She had to say it three times before the woman finally let the girl loose, CBS reports.
Claudia Hernandez Diaz, 34, was taken into custody in connection with the incident, Santa Ana police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna told CBS. Diaz was booked on suspicion of kidnapping a minor younger than 14.
Once Amy had escaped the attempted kidnapper, the woman drove Amy to school, she told ABC, calling police during the ride. Police then swarmed the area where the alleged kidnapping attempt took place and tracked down their suspect.
Amy said she’s relieved to be safe, especially after she expected the worst.
“I thought that I was never going to see my mom or my family again,” Amy told ABC.
Amy’s family is thanking the good Samaritan for stepping in where others didn’t.
“It’s a place where there’s a lot of cars and not one stopped until this lady came, in our eyes, she’s our angel,” Cinthia Esparza, Amy’s aunt, told ABC.