A Tempe police officer is being credited with stopping a Mesa car theft before the suspect had gone more than a few miles down Baseline Road on Thursday morning.
A Mesa woman had stopped at a Food City Grocery Store at 8th Avenue and Alma School Road Thursday morning to get a few items. The woman left her green SUV running with her 70-year-old mother and one-year-old daughter inside, said Det. Steve Berry with the Mesa Police Department.
While the woman went inside, a man approached the SUV and opened the back door where the child was seated. The grandmother of the child began to yell at the man, who then closed the door he had opened, jumped into the driver’s seat of the running SUV and began to drive away with both the grandmother and baby inside, Berry said.
The suspect, who police later said is Ralph Esposito, 44, did not get far down Baseline Road before a Tempe police officer spotted the SUV with the passenger-side door slightly open and the passenger clearly angry with the driver.
“Grandma had the door partially open and had her hand flailing and he could tell that she was yelling and there was obviously some sort of problem,” Berry said. “He pulled up behind the SUV and called for additional officers.”
The driver stopped the SUV on Baseline near Interstate 10 and got out. Officers were able to get the suspect into custody and the two passengers in the car, the grandmother and the baby, were unharmed.
“All the kudos in the world go to that Tempe officer that was paying attention,” Berry said. “We hadn’t even been able to get the information out yet, that’s how quickly this happened.”
The entire incident happened in a span of about six minutes.