Taco truck operators intervene during San Jose carjacking

San Jose police credit good Samaritans for helping a family who had been carjacked Tuesday afternoon. 

And it was the operators of a busy taco truck who stepped in to help.

San Jose police say 34-year-old Tyrone Merritt carjacked a minivan in broad daylight with the driver, her adult daughter, and 6 year old granddaughter all inside.

"Because he entered from the rear sliding door of a minivan, she was able to drive on in a panicked state, just a couple blocks down the street," said San Jose Police Officer Steven Aponte.

The victim made it to a gas station at the intersection of Capitol and Cropley where she tried to escape.

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Authorities say Merritt began chasing her as the Tuesday lunch crowd at a nearby taco truck looked on.

"The subject was confrontational, obviously tried to take control of the vehicle. And at that time additional callers started coming in reporting the incident as he was chasing her around the car trying to get toward the driver's door," Aponte said.

That's when the bystanders sprung into action, calling 911, and trying to help the family by quickly shepherding the 6-year-old to safety in the taco truck.

Maritza Natareno who runs the truck, says she hugged and comforted the little girl, telling her everything would be alright.

In the meantime, police arrived and arrested. Merritt, despite his alleged attempts to run away.

At the food truck today, customers still can't believe it happened.

"It's really scary to think somewhere we come all the time that something like this could happen. Even hearing about how he jumped in the car when someone was in there was pretty intense," said Quincy Smith, who eats there regularly.

"We all come up here. We all help out. We all say hi. And so if anybody's going to do it we would have all jumped in. I would have jumped in. Because when it comes to kids, no, that's one thing we would all jump in for," said another regular customer Bertha Denton.

Merritt was already on post-release supervision for a prior auto theft.

He has now been booked into the Santa Clara County Main Jail for carjacking. Fortunately, no one was injured in the incident.