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Police: Bystanders step in to thwart man from stealing car with kids inside

A Fastrip gas station at Real Road and Ming Avenue in Bakersfield, Calif., is seen Thursday, March 24, 2016. Two days earlier, bystanders stepped in to stop a man who allegedly tried to steal a car with two kids inside at the gas station.

Bystanders stepped in Tuesday to stop a man from stealing a car with kids inside, according to police.

The mother parked at a Fastrip gas station at Real Road and Ming Avenue and left the keys in the ignition with two children in the car, Sgt. Gary Carruesco said.

"It was my friend," Kizzy Scoggins told Eyewitness News on Thursday morning. "I haven't really, really talked to her about the situation."

Scoggins didn't provide the mother's name, but said the woman has two little kids.

"It was two little girls in the car, and I guess the guy tried to jump in the car and drive," Scoggins described.

Police said the children were 1 and 5 years old.

Workers at the Fastrip said Thursday that the suspect was seen walking up from Ming, and he first approached a driver at pump No. 2 and asked that man for a ride. That driver refused.

Gas station workers said the suspect then went to pump No. 4, where their cousin was fueling his car. They say the man asked to see inside the cousin's car. He refused, and locked his vehicle.

Then, the workers said the man went to pump No. 3, where the mother's car was parked.

They said the children were in the backseat, and the keys were apparently in the car's ignition. Police said the suspect started up the car and began to drive.

Carruesco said the suspect only went about 10 feet before bystanders were able to stop him.

The suspect got out, and ran down the block, but the bystanders were able to stop and hold him until officers got there.

That suspect has been identified as Thomas Pierson, and he was in court on Thursday afternoon, facing felony charges of attempted kidnapping and carjacking. Several other cases show up on his record, including charges for being under the influence of drugs and driving under the influence.

"They're definitely not thinking straight from the beginning, to take the car in the first place," said Fastrip customer Landon Hendershot. He and several other customers said they were glad to hear that the bystanders had helped the kids.

But, Hendershot was also concerned about the mother leaving the kids in the car. He was waiting in his car with his child, while his girlfriend went in the store.

In the Tuesday incident, the mother was also ticketed for leaving the children in the car unattended. Police did not release her name. By California law, children under the age of 12 cannot be left unattended in a vehicle.

Other drivers at the Fastrip also worried about the kids being alone in that car.

"A lesson learned," Scoggins said. "You know, hopefully it will never happen again."

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