GULFPORT (FOX 13) - At age 12, Tyron McKinnon was arrested by St. Petersburg police Monday night on felony charges for the twelfth time.
Friday, that history was not known to 89-year old Ray Raftery of Gulfport, who is seen on security camera video pumping gas while McKinnon circled around him repeatedly on a bicycle.
"He kept talking and I didn't realize he was trying to get my attention," Raftery recalled Tuesday, adding the pre-teen flagged him down as he started to drive away, and said his tire was low.
After pulling over to the air pump and getting out of his vehicle, McKinnon directed him to the passenger side of the still-running RAV 4.
"I was looking at the tire and I looked up, I could just see his face sliding into the seat," Raftery told FOX 13 News.
"I don't know how he reached the pedals, because he was only a little kid and I'm fairly tall, I've got the seat pretty much back." A second camera angle recorded the car theft.
St. Pete police detectives recognized the 80 pound, 4'9" suspect right away, then spent the weekend trying to find him.
"I know he was cooperative enough to tell us where the car was left," police spokesman Michael Puetz said Tuesday. "This isn't the first time he's been arrested. We've had him in a number of cases where he stole other cars, he's been involved in burglaries and at least in one case, robbery," he said.
Puetz said the department is encountering an increasing number of pre-teens committing felony offenses.
He repeated warnings to not leave cars running, especially in public places where kids seem to be just hanging out.
Raftery agreed to speak to the media to reinforce that message. "If it had been an adult, I might have been a bit more suspicious," he told FOX 13 News. "But in broad daylight, 11 o'clock in the morning, in an open area and a kid 12 years old- furthest thing in my mind is that he has anything ulterior in his mind," he said.