A 12-year-old boy got into a pickup truck with a stranger who had a friendly smile — but things quickly took a terrifying turn.
The man’s smile vanished, replaced by strange behavior and erratic driving. To escape, the boy had to jump from the moving vehicle.
And that’s when witnesses sprang into action. They helped the boy — and cornered the suspected kidnapper.
Angel Perez, 30, was driving behind the pickup with his colleague in an old delivery truck. He can’t shake the image of the boy falling from the open passenger-side door, face first into the road, he says.
“It was a bit of a crazy ride yesterday,” Perez said Thursday. “We were right behind this white pickup truck driving recklessly in the left lane, and through the glass you can see people hitting each other or fighting in the car. The next thing you know, we see the door open up and this kid is sticking his head out of it.”
Perez and his colleague watched in horror as the boy fell face forward into the asphalt on Hypoluxo Road in Boynton Beach, a three-lane road with a speed limit of 45 mph. They saw the boy crawling toward the grass, and hesitated, he said.
“At this point, we’re debating what to do now,” Perez said. “My first instinct was ‘I gotta help this little kid,’ but also ‘this guy needs to go to jail, and he’s getting away.'”
Perez said they saw in their rearview mirror that a car stopped to help the boy, and they took off after the truck.
They chased the driver east to Interstate 95, down the highway for about a mile and then off the exit at Gateway Boulevard. They followed the driver to the traffic signal, where he was stopped at a red light “like nothing happened,” Perez said.
By this time, they had called 911. They cornered the man’s truck and screamed at him about the kidnapping, demanding he get out of the truck.
The man, later identified by the police as Timothy Miller, 26, of West Palm Beach, got out of the pickup. He told them he didn’t know what they were talking about, and got back inside, Perez said.
“That’s when we decided he had to come out,” Perez said. He and his business partner wrestled Miller out of the truck and to the ground, he said.
Two police officers who were stopped in a cop car on the exit got out to help, Perez said. It took the four of them to take the guy down.
More officers arrived and arrested Miller, who reeked of booze and appeared to be on drugs, Perez said. He confessed to the cops that he had kidnapped the child, Perez said.
Miller faces charges that include kidnapping, resisting arrest, child neglect and DUI, records show. He is being held without bond at the Palm Beach County Jail.
The drama began about 4 p.m. Wednesday, when the boy — wearing a school uniform and carrying a backpack — had just gotten off a school bus and was walking west along Hypoluxo Road, police said.
According to the arrest report, Miller drove up in a pickup truck and offered the boy a ride saying he, “gives kids rides all the time and not to worry because he won’t do anything weird.”
The boy later told police Miller seemed nice and had a friendly smile so he got in. Then, Miller started to act different, asked if the boy had any drugs, and started to drive erratically and almost ran off the road. Miller was looking at the boy strangely making him feel uncomfortable, police said.
Every time the boy tried to open the passenger side door to get out, Miller told him not to and sped up. That’s when the boy jumped from the moving truck.
He suffered cuts and scrapes on his head, hands, and arms, police said.
Miller violently resisted arrest and refused a DUI test, police said. Later, during questioning, Miller said he was just trying to buy drugs off the boy who he thought was 14 to 16-years-old.
Miller’s criminal record includes felony charges dating back to 2011 in Pinellas County, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. He’s spent time in prison on robbery charges, and has faced charges of armed robbery and burglary, aggravated battery, grand theft and obstructing justice by tampering with a witness.
His Facebook page shows he worked as a delivery driver in 2018 for a late-night Boynton Beach restaurant, Nocturnal Eats, and was most recently employed at Pugh’s Pools & Spa in Boynton. He shared a video of a bus driver rescuing a toddler roaming on the highway months ago.
Miller admitted the boy got into his truck and had asked to be let out, investigators said.
Meanwhile, Perez said he just wants to know if the boy is OK.
“I got a 5-year-old little girl. My helper has a 12-year-old girl, the same age as this little boy,” Perez said. “We reacted as parents. You’d hope anyone else would do the same thing for your kid.”
firstname.lastname@example.org or 954-356-4303 or Twitter @WayneRoustan
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