JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Hours after an armed man approached them, pointed a gun at them and demanded their purses, two Jacksonville women spoke about the terrifying incident that happened as their children watched.
The attempted robbery took place Wednesday afternoon in the parking lot at the City Ridge Apartments in Arlington.
Kristina Salias and her sister Karina Nalbandayn said they hadn't even had a chance to strap their two children into car seats before they found themselves staring down the barrel of a gun.
They said the man first pointed his gun at Salias while putting her in a headlock and demanding her purse.
"It was horrible. When he put the gun to my head, I thought it was a joke. He said, 'Give me your purse or I'm going to shoot you,' and I still said, 'I'm not going to give you my purse.' So we were wrestling back and forth, and then it ripped and he left me alone and ran to the other side where my sister was and tried to take her purse," said Salias.
Standing right above the two children, the gunman then took aim at Nalbandayn.
"I was looking up at him because he's so tall, and I was crying," Nalbandayn said.
At that moment, two Jacksonville Sheriff's Office police who had been working on another case nearby happened to spot the gunman. Police said that's when the armed robber started shooting at the officers.
"I'm on top of (the boy) trying to get him to duck down so he don't get shot. It was very, very scary," Salias said.
Witnesses told Channel 4 they heard at least 12 shots fired between the gunman and the two officers.
"As I was walking into the kitchen I heard a lot of gunshots and just hit the floor and started crawling, tell (my daughter) to get down," said a witness who asked not to be identified.
She said her 14-year-old daughter was taking out the trash when the gunfight began. The teen was forced to take cover behind a dumpster.
"I was just screaming. My heart was racing. I didn't know what to think or what to do because I didn't see her nowhere," the witness said.
As for the victims, the woman said although the armed man did not get away with their purses, he stole something more priceless -- their peace of mind.
No bystanders were injured during the shooting. It was not known whether the gunman was struck. He remains at large.
Anyone with information that could help police solve this case is asked to call Crimestoppers at 866-845-TIPS.