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Girl with cellphone foils robbers in home invasion

The 12-year-old hides in a closet and dials 911, saving her family.

March 09, 2007|Andrew Strickler | Newsday

NEW YORK — The men who police said raided a Queens home came armed with pistols, but they didn't count on facing a quick-thinking 12-year-old and her new cellphone.

"I dialed 911, but I hit the 'check' button instead of 'call,' " said Katie Ruiz, describing the nervous call she made on her week-old phone, which foiled the violent home invasion. "I had to redial it."

Thursday, hours after the ordeal, her father praised her courage, saying she saved the family.

"She's the hero," Gamaliel Ruiz said outside his two-story brick house, a fresh bruise on the side of his face. "It's unbelievable what she did."

Gamaliel Ruiz, 37, said he was home with his daughter, his wife and his stepson, Julian Loaiza, when he heard his wife scream from the first floor.

Seconds later, four men with handguns ran through the house, forcing Ruiz and Loaiza, 16, to lie on the floor upstairs. His wife and his 18-year-old niece -- who he said was forced at gunpoint to let the men into the house as she returned from work -- were kept on the first floor.

Katie, a seventh-grader who splits time between her father's mother's homes, said she was doing math homework in an upstairs bedroom when she saw a man holding a gun rush past her door. She quickly ran to a closet.

"I remembered, 'Oh yeah, my phone is out there. I better get that,' " she said. She grabbed her phone -- a gift from her father -- and got back in the closet to call 911. "I was nervous because I couldn't control my phone because it's new," she said.

Meanwhile, Katie's father said, the men ran through the house, grabbing jewelry, cellphones and a computer while kicking and punching terrified family members and demanding money.

At one point, at least two of the invaders cocked their guns. "They said they knew we had cash and they were going to kill us if we didn't give it to them," Ruiz said.

Ruiz, who works in the car finance business, said he thought the men failed to find the girl because her open bedroom door blocked a view of the closet where she hid.

"The [911] lady told me, 'Don't get out of the closet, even if someone yells for you because they might be tricking you,' " Katie said.

After several minutes in the house, the invaders began shouting that police were outside, Gamaliel Ruiz said. One panicked man opened a rear second-story window and threw himself out. He was quickly followed by two others.

"They just dove out head-first, like in 'The Matrix,' " Loaiza said, adding that he thought one of the men hurt his back in the fall. The last man hesitated and tried to climb down from the window but fell.

Police said Robert Soto, 38; Jose Caban, 32; Jose Lopez, 43; and Rafael Ortiz, 38; all of the Bronx, were arrested as they tried to escape. They were charged with burglary, robbery, unlawful imprisonment and criminal possession of a weapon.

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