At 4-foot-11, Maria Valdoria may be small, but her grip was too much Saturday for the 300-pound man who tried to steal her car in Whittier, authorities said.
Valdoria, 23, of La Mirada, was driving out of a carwash shortly before noon when the man approached and told her the car was leaking oil, said Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Angie McLaughlin.
When Valdoria got out to check her car, the man allegedly jumped in and began to drive away. But Valdoria leaped into the car on top of the man and held fast to the steering wheel, McLaughlin said.
The 1991 Honda Accord careened along busy Telegraph Road as the two struggled at the wheel. McLaughlin said off-duty sheriff's Deputy Larry Thompson, stopped at a light, noticed the vehicle and gave chase.
From his car, McLaughlin said, the deputy could heard Valdoria screaming for the man to stop as she was hanging out of the car, swinging.
The suspect stopped the vehicle about two blocks later and Valdoria grabbed the keys and turned off the ignition, McLaughlin said. She said Thompson arrived and held the man at gunpoint until other officers came on the scene.
The suspect, identified as Carlos Garcia, 39, of Corona, was booked on suspicion of kidnaping and carjacking. He was being held at the Norwalk sheriff's station late Saturday on $100,000 bail, McLaughlin said.
Valdoria was not injured.