LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- A Southern California teacher inadvertently ended up on the phone with a carjacking suspect right as he was leading police on a high-speed chase across several counties.
The dangerous chase unfolded on Friday and lasted over an hour.
Benjamin Gonzalez, who made his initial court appearance on Wednesday, has been charged in connection to the pursuit in which he was seen carjacking a man for his pickup truck and shooting at officers multiple times. That pickup truck belonged to Josh Ross, the boyfriend of Ananda Mallory.
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She told Eyewitness News she called Ross on his birthday to figure out their plans, which she soon realized at that moment, had completely changed.
"Initially, upon hearing an unfamiliar voice on the phone and then hearing, 'I had to take your boyfriend's truck. He's fine. He's at the gas station,' my first thought isn't like, 'Oh well, thank you,'" she said.
Not knowing whether her boyfriend was OK, Mallory was forced to act - and think - fast.
"I'm hearing everything kind of bumping around in the car and I'm realizing, 'Oh, this is actually happening,'" she said. "So I just, my first thought is, 'I'm not going to hang up. I'm going to try to keep him on the phone as long as I can until I know for sure he's made contact with police.'"
Gonzalez did, in fact, make contact with police. AIR7 HD captured him shooting at officers with an assault-style rifle multiple times. Fortunately, no one was injured.
Mid-chase, Gonzalez came to a sudden stop in the Long Beach-Lakewood area when a group of students who had just gotten out of school blocked him. AIR7 HD captured the long line of students crossing the street. The suspect waited for the students to cross and then sped off.
What was once Mallory's compassionate approach to deescalate led to three urgent words: Don't you dare.
"There's no sweet way to say, 'Don't do this, and what are your kids going to see?'" she said.
The fact that she knew Gonzalez was a father allowed Mallory to humanize the experience, essentially calming Gonzalez down.
"So I said, 'What would you want me to tell your kids?' And he said, 'I just want you to tell them that I loved being their dad, I'll miss being their dad and waking up every morning and taking them to school,'" recalled Mallory.
Gonzalez pleaded not guilty on Wednesday, and he is being held on $1 million bail.
A GoFundMe was created to raise money for Ross. To donate, click here.