It wasn't until after Felicia Smith had chased the man down and helped pry her screaming son from his grip that she realized how close she had come to losing her 3-year-old boy.
"I thank God because he spared my child," Mrs. Smith said yesterday. "If [the man] had had a car, he would have been gone."
Instead, Bruce Green, 29, of the 3900 block of Dudley Avenue, was being held last night on charges of kidnapping and assault at the Eastern District lockup. Bail was set by a Baltimore District Court commissioner at $7,000, and he is scheduled for a bail review hearing today, police said.
Witnesses told police that a man walked up to the crowded playground at the Parkside Garden Apartments in Northeast Baltimore shortly before 6 p.m. Saturday and grabbed Mrs. Smith's son, whose name is being withheld at her request.
Mrs. Smith said she was washing dishes when her 6-year-old daughter burst through the door to tell her about the abduction.
"She was screaming and crying that a man took her brother," Mrs. Smith said. "I flew out of there."
The man was already about a half-block away when Mrs. Smith spotted him dragging her son toward Sinclair Lane. She took off after him.
At the same time, another woman reached the man and tried to block his escape, slowing him down enough for Mrs. Smith to catch up.
"I said, 'Give me my son,' " Mrs. Smith said. She struggled with the man who began punching the boy.
"He had him by the neck," Mrs. Smith said. "I couldn't get him. I couldn't get my son."
A man who lives in the neighborhood ran up and helped pull the boy away. He and Mrs. Smith's husband wrestled the man to the ground and held him until police arrived.
The suspect was taken to Church Hospital, where he was treated for minor injuries and returned to police custody.
Mrs. Smith's son, who was bruised in the attack, didn't require medical treatment. But both he and his older sister had trouble sleeping Saturday night. So did Mrs. Smith, who found herself longing to move back to her native Norfolk, Va.
"You can let your child go outside there," she said. "I'm not used to the city."
The Smiths moved to Baltimore three years ago and have lived at the Parkside apartments since their arrival. Mrs. Smith said she never thought twice about letting her children walk across the parking lot to the playground.
"The playground is so close," she said. "I [would] come out and check on them, and then go back inside."
The apparent kidnapping attempt "taught me a lesson," she said. "You just can't let your child out of your sight because it just takes a minute. If they go, you've got to go with them."