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Women recount terrifying encounter with carjacker

March 4, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
A woman and her pregnant daughter-in-law are speaking out about their chilling encounter with a man who allegedly carjacked them.

Iris Albaranga, daughter-in-law Michelle Guerra and Albaranga's 6-year-old grandson were in a pickup truck on their way home about 8:20 p.m. Saturday when a man approached them as they were stopped at a red light.

The suspect, Luis Cortes, had apparently just escaped from the California Highway Patrol's Altadena station just a few feet away. Officials said they were trying to give Cortes a field sobriety test. Cortes allegedly got physical with officers and tried to take an officer's gun. Officers hit him with a stun gun, but he still managed to escape and ran into the street.

After approaching the truck, the suspect opened the passenger door and climbed in on top of Guerra, who is five months pregnant.

"He was telling us to drive and we didn't want to, so instead of sitting next to me, he said, 'Well, if she doesn't want to drive me anywhere, I'm going to be the one that's driving,'" Guerra said.

The women said Cortes pushed Albaranga out of the driver's seat, took the wheel and headed west on the 210 Freeway. Guerra and her nephew were still in the truck.

Guerra called 911 on her cellphone and said she convinced Cortes to pull over.

"I managed to tell him to get out of the freeway and to park the car somewhere and to take off on foot," Guerra said.

Albaranga recalls the tense moments after seeing the truck speed away.

"I was praying to God, saying please protect them," Albaranga said.

Cortest parked the truck in Lake View Terrace and went into an apartment complex.

Officers tracked Cortest down. He surrendered and was arrested. Cortes faces obstruction of justice, kidnapping and carjacking charges.

One of the CHP officers involved in the initial scuffle injured his ankle and was taken to the hospital. No one else was hurt.