A carjacker allegedly stole a mother's keys as she walked into a New Jersey Wendy's Friday morning, then hopped into her car and drove off with her three children inside as she clung from the steering wheel in a desperate effort to save them, authorities said.
The woman was getting out of her car at the fast food restaurant in Paterson between 8:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. when the carjacker jumped into the vehicle that also had three children -- ages 2, 4 and 5 -- inside, police say.
Police said the mother grabbed onto the steering wheel as the thief began to drive off and was dragged a short distance before the thief got away.
Police were called to the scene, and officers followed the car into neighboring Hawthorne. Officers said the carjacker ditched the car along with the children.
A few minutes later, the man was seen stealing an idling Acura MDX at a 7-Eleven. Police later tracked down the vehicle at the Garden State Plaza mall and took the man into custody, officers said.
The owner of the Acura, Miguel Lora, said that he left his car running because he was only going into the convenience store for a few minutes and it was cold outside. He said when he went back out, he was surprised to see his car missing. He looked around before going back in and telling clerks his vehicle was stolen.
"I learned my lesson," Lora said, referencing leaving his car running and unattended.
It's not clear what charges the man will face.
The children were physically unharmed in the ordeal and were taken to St. Joseph's Hospital to be reunited with their mother, who was being treated there for minor injuries.