JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A Jacksonville father has a warning for parents after he said he came close to losing his 11-year-old daughter in a carjacking just over a week ago.
Marco Quiroz said his daughter is still shaken by memories of a man pointing a gun barrel at her chest and telling her to get out of her family's SUV.
The girl's mother had gone into a Dollar Tree on Beach Boulevard near St. Johns Bluff Road and left the 11-year-old in the front passenger seat with the SUV running -- and unlocked, according to a police report. Quiroz said they'll never do that again.
A man took the opportunity to hop into the driver's seat, pointed a silver revolver at the girl and demanded she get out, police said. She told police she complied, but her arm got scratched and bruised as she tried to climb out of the SUV.
After the man drove off, she ran into the business to get help.
“(It) could have easily turned into a murder or something. It’s hard to think about, but that’s exactly what happens to a lot of people out there,” Quiroz said. “You never think it’s going to happen to you until it does. Once it does, you don’t know what to do, how to act, what follows from here.”
Quiroz said one thing his family does know is they will never leave a car running and unlocked again, and he hopes other parents heed his warning to do the same.
Quiroz said he's grateful his daughter is alive and walked away with only scratches. But he said she is still dealing with the trauma of being held at gunpoint.
“She’s (a) child. Still looks and acts mature, but she’s a child. She froze, and it’s unfair. It’s traumatizing,” Quiroz said. “Of course, we try to tell her, ‘You got to be strong.’ But, of course, she’s scared now. … (It will) take a little while before she goes back to normal.”
Police told Quiroz his SUV has been found and they have leads on who took it because of surveillance photos from a hotel. Quiroz said he hopes that man is off the streets soon.
Investigators said the man was wearing stone-washed jeans with a red and black T-shirt at the time. If you have any information that can help police find him, you're asked to call police or Crime Stoppers at 1-866-845-TIPS.