A Westbury mother sitting in an SUV with her children in the back suddenly had to fight off a carjacker who leaped in through an open rear window and ordered her out of the car.
As she battled with him Monday night in Hempstead Village, her 12-year-old son tried to escape but, tripped up by his seat belt, got his foot stuck under a tire when the SUV rocked forward, police said Tuesday.
Bystanders, hearing the boy's screams, ran to help -- lifting the car off him -- then detained the would-be carjacker, police said.
"I don't know why the man did what he did," said the mother, Keta Williams, 31. "I did everything necessary to save my children. He wasn't going to take them from me."
Ashburn Neysmith, 52, was arrested and Tuesday pleaded not guilty to three counts of second-degree robbery, two counts of second-degree assault and two counts of endangering the welfare of a child. The judge set bail at $160,000 and ordered medical attention for Neysmith, of 71 California Ave., Hempstead.
The struggle took place about 7 p.m. Monday on California Avenue, as Williams was parked in the family's 2013 Ford Edge chatting with the boys' aunt, Sharon Washington, who was standing outside. Williams' children, Osner Solon, 12, and Justin Solon, 6, were in the backseat.
"As she spoke with the relative, she noticed this man was now walking towards her and then increased his pace to a trot and was now running towards her car," Det. Lt. Ray Cote, commanding officer of the Third Squad, told reporters Tuesday in Mineola.
Cote said the woman locked the doors and tried to close all the windows, but Neysmith managed to jump through -- head first -- landing on Justin.
"He told the woman, 'I'm taking your car, get out,' " Cote said. "Mom realizes that she can't let this guy move the car because her son is under the car. However, during the struggle he's able to put the car in drive. The car inches forward on top of the young child's leg."
When Osner became stuck, bystanders, in a moment of "freak strength," hefted the car and pulled the boy to safety, police said.
"His shoe was still under the wheel, but we freed him," said Ron Chambers, 46, who ran to the car after hearing Osner's scream from his home half a block away. "God blessed him, because he only had a sprain and no broken bones."
Tuesday night, Williams said she was relieved that Osner had just a sprained ankle and Justin a minor knee injury.
"They're scared but they're OK," Williams said.
Washington said her nephews have been "clinging" to their mom: "They don't want to leave her side after what happened."
In First District Court in Hempstead, Neysmith's Legal Aid attorney said he is an aerospace industry employee and 11-year volunteer firefighter with the Hempstead Fire Department. Nassau police said he had no criminal record in the county.
Washington saw Neysmith, a man she knew as her father's friend and fishing companion, as a nice man.
The rescuers did not immediately know a carjacking was in progress and focused instead on lifting the car.
"We had so much adrenaline, but we couldn't lift it much, only a little," Chambers said.
Police credit the bystanders for keeping the family from further harm and holding Neysmith for Hempstead police officers.
"He don't say a word," Chambers said. "He just stared with that crazy look until the police came and took him."
One bystander was so upset that he threatened Neysmith and was arrested, said the boys' father, also named Osner Solon. He said he spent $1,000 to bail out the bystander.
"I'm thankful to the men who got him out from under the car," the father said. "The kids are good, thank God. It could have been worse."
With John Valenti