Cellphone proves vital tool in finding carjacking suspects

Cellphone proves vital tool in finding carjacking suspects »Play Video
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — A Bakersfield woman said it wasn't so smart to resist a carjacker, but her smartphone later helped track down the alleged crooks.

Alexis Espinoza, 22, borrowed a phone to call her family when they made off with her Honda. Her parents used their cellphone's family locator plan to lead officers to the suspected thieves.

The family said two men were arrested late Tuesday night.

It started with a confrontation as Espinoza was waiting for a friend in a parking lot. She'd seen a red car circle several times, then a couple men came up to her window.

"He's like, 'Get out of the car,'" Espinoza told Eyewitness News. "And I'm like, 'I'm not getting out.' I kept my hands on the steering wheel."

But, one man was pointing a gun, and even knocked her on the head with it.

"'Get out of the car,'" Espinoza said the man yelled at her. "I fell out, and I'm like, 'OK, I'll go.'"

The men took her car and her cellphone.

At that point, she went inside the bar where she'd been waiting and borrowed a phone to call her parents. They could use their phones to see where her cellphone was, because they have the Sprint family locator service, which includes an app linked to a GPS system.

"You just push a name, and it comes up," Espinoza explained, showing how the system works. Her parents also quickly called police.

But, in the meantime, one of the thieves must have put her cellphone in his pocket, and it "pocket called" Espinoza's boyfriend. He ended up getting a two-minute message where the suspects can be heard talking about using their gun for the carjacking.

"That actually made me realize how stupid I was acting," Espinoza said. "I should have let them have the car. It's not worth my life."

The car had been taken from a location on Union Avenue, the GPS system tracked it and the phone to an address on Chico.

Espinoza's stepfather said he got there just after Kern County deputies arrived. Officers searched an apartment and brought out several suspects. Espinoza identified two as the suspected carjackers.

Officers told the family they found the suspects' apartment full of things that they believe were stolen from other victims.

The family is grateful for the cellphone tracking system. Stepfather Dereck Johnson said the family locator option with the GPS system costs about $4 a month, and he thinks it's worth it.

Espinoza is glad the ordeal is over, and she's thinking hard about what happened.

"I was pretty happy they recovered my car," Espinoza said. "But, it was pretty confusing that it could happen to me in Bakersfield."