TAMPA, FL – A parent is relieved after deputies with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office in Florida recovered the stolen vehicle and the children. The children, who were found safe, were quick to dime out the suspect as not being their father.
A man had stopped in Tampa and left his two children, ages 4 and 8, in his truck. At some point, after he exited the truck, a male, later identified as 37-year-old Kevin Smith, jumped inside and took off with the children inside.
It is unknown at this point if Smith knew the children were inside when he allegedly stole the vehicle.
A man who is considered a hero in two parents' eyes detailed out how he stopped a stolen truck with two kids inside in Hillsborough County. https://t.co/4Wr9ZUoWdL
— 10 Tampa Bay (@10TampaBay) October 15, 2022
The father, who was not identified by police, saw a Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Deputy who was in the area of E 137th and N 15th Street and flagged him down telling him what happened.
The deputy, identified as Pazimno Alvarez, immediately jumped into action and found the truck driving down the street.
Deputy Alvarez attempted to stop the stolen vehicle, a 2011 Chevrolet Silverado, which initially fled causing the deputy to pursue him. After a short pursuit, Smith pulled over and Deputy Alvarez made contact with Smith.
When the deputy made contact, the children inside the vehicle almost immediately began yelling at him that Smith was not their father.
Deputy Alvarez ordered Smith out of the vehicle, and he initially refused to do so, claiming he felt the deputy was going to strike him if he did.
Deputy Alvarez was able to get Smith out of the vehicle and take him into custody without incident. Both of the children were rescued and given back to their father. Thankfully, neither child suffered any injuries during the incident.
Smith was charged with grand theft of a motor vehicle and two counts of kidnapping for unlawfully taking the children for his joyride. According to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, Smith is no stranger to the jail as his criminal history dates back to 2003. Smith is currently being held without bond on the three charges.
— 10 Tampa Bay (@10TampaBay) October 12, 2022
Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister took time to laud the work done by Deputy Alvarez who was able to not only save the children but take the suspect into custody without anyone getting injured. Sheriff Chronister said:
“This situation could’ve been a lot worse had it not been for the swift action taken by Deputy Pazmino Alvarez. He halted what could have been an otherwise terrifying situation for any parent. Thanks to him, two children are safe and in the arms of their loved ones today.”
While the entire circumstance has not been released, LET strongly urges everyone to never leave your children in a running and unlocked car without an adult present. Thankfully, the children, in this case, were safely reunited with their father, but the situation could have ended very badly very easily.
Any number of things could have happened had Smith not stopped for law enforcement when the deputy attempted to stop him. The children could have been injured during a vehicle pursuit exploited in some manner.
Providing a description of the man, they pointed police in his direction. Sioux Falls police made contact with Michael Flann Neal, Jr., 36, who was walking with a 1-year-old.
Neal’s original story was that he was being shot at and was concerned for his safety. He said that he didn’t know who was shooting at him. There were no reports of shots being fired in the area to confirm his story.
According to KELO, police say his story wasn’t adding up and he appeared to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
When pressed on the toddler with him, he told authorities that he was the child’s uncle. As the conversation continued, Neal was unable to provide police with the parents’ names. As police detained the man and continued their questioning, two things came to light.
One, it was determined that the 36-year-old had an outstanding warrant. It is unknown what that warrant was for, but he was taken into custody for that warrant. While that was playing out, a call came into the SFPD regarding the child that was with Neal.
To no one’s surprise, Neal was in no way related to the toddler. While the child’s parents knew of Neal, there was no reason for him to have been with the toddler.
Here is what we know.
Earlier that day, while both parents were working, Neal went to their home where the 1-year-old was being watched by a nanny. He managed to force his way into the home. Police have not provided any details about how he was able to gain entry into the apartment.
While the investigation continues, officials have not yet been able to determine what the Neal’s plan was for the kidnapping. Could it have been for ransom or trafficking? Police are still trying to piece that all together.
Neal is now locked up on his previous warrant, as well as having been charged with 2nd-degree kidnapping and drug charges for possessing a small amount of meth.