‘My priority at the time was just the kids’: Hillsborough deputy opens up after rescuing kids kidnapped in carjacking

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Two children were rescued just minutes after being kidnapped in a carjacking Monday, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.

Deputy Jonathan Pazmino Alvarez was flagged down around 6:40 p.m. Monday near the area of ​​East 137th Avenue and North 15th Street in Tampa by a man who said his truck had just been stolen with his two young children still inside.

Deputy Pazmino Alvarez immediately chased after the man’s white 2011 Chevrolet Silverado and, keeping sight of the truck, was able to make a traffic stop within minutes.

“Stop the truck now!” Deputy Pazmino Alvarez ordered over his police cruiser speaker system.

Deputies said the man behind the wheel was 37-year-old Kevin Smith, who has a criminal history dating back to 2003 in Hillsborough County. There were also two children in the car, ages 4 and 8.

When Pazmino Alvarez approached the vehicle, which had stopped in the parking lot, one of the children told the deputy, “This guy robbed my dad’s car.”

Smith was ordered out of the car and was arrested without further incident. He is facing two counts of kidnapping and one count of grand theft of a motor vehicle.

“My priority at that point was just the kids,” Alvarez said. “He just said, ‘I’m so glad you were there,’ and I looked back and said, ‘Wow, I’m glad I was there, too.'”

The two children were not injured during the incident and returned safely to their father.

Before Alvarez became a deputy, he was the director of aquatics at the YMCA, where he worked with children. He says he was relieved as soon as he opened the truck door.

“I was happy to make sure they were safe,” Alvarez said. “They were crying. They were very upset and as soon as they saw me, they brightened up. They stopped crying and were like, he’s not my father.”

Deputies added that Smith is currently being held at Falkenburg Road Jail without bond.

“This situation could have been much worse if not for the quick action of Deputy Pazmin Alvarez,” said Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister. “He stopped what could otherwise be a scary situation for any parent. Thanks to him, today the two children are safe and in the arms of their loved ones.”

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