EAST ELMHURST — The 13-year-old girl who dove into an alleged thief's car to get back her stolen cellphone said her determination to retrieve the gadget superseded her fear.
But seventh-grader Lesley Garcia said the episode — in which she punched a man and yanked a woman's hair before grabbing the phone back — has left her dad too nervous to let her out of his sight.
Lesley and her father, Albaro Garcia, told DNAinfo New York about the Feb. 25 robbery attempt on a tree-lined street in East Elmhurst.
Lesley was listening to her favorite metal bands as she walked the 10 or so blocks to school on Feb. 25 when a man who said he knew her older brother approached her and asked to use her phone, a Samsung Galaxy Note she got for Christmas last year, she said.
When she took the phone out of her pocket, the man police identified as George Macias, 24, grabbed it and ran, Lesley said.
Blinded by the moment, Lesley, who said she likes to "text and hear music" on her phone, ran after him.
"I start running to chase him because I wanted my phone back, and he gets in the car and there was a woman with him," she said.
Police said the woman was Macias' girlfriend, 19-year-old Marlen Telalyan, who police said was waiting in the getaway car on 32nd Avenue and 87th Street.
"He starts driving and I get in the car with him," she said. "I jumped in through the window."
With her legs dangling out the driver's side window, Lesley said she felt "scared, because I thought they had a gun."
But she fought Macias and Telalyan, pulling the woman's hair and demanding the phone back.
During the struggle, Macias crashed the car into a low brick wall near a house, according to Lesley and the criminal complaint.
But the teen, who said her brother taught her to throw a punch, kept fighting.
"I got my phone and then I got off the car, and everyone was telling me it was OK because they called the police," she said, adding she feels safe on her way to class despite the incident.
"I usually walk to school, but not anymore. I feel, like, fine — the problem is my dad. He doesn't trust me anymore," said the teen with long hair dyed bright red at the ends.
When Lesley's father called to see if she got to school safely, she started crying — and the 39-year-old handyman rushed to the scene.
Witnesses there told him about the theft and fight, which left him shocked.
"I never thought — for a phone?" he said. "I'm not mad at her, but I told her, next time if it happens to you, give the phone away."
The single dad said he understood how his daughter felt when the pricey gadget was snatched from her hand — and admitted he understood her spur-of-the-moment reaction.
"Somebody come up to you and gets something you worked hard to try to get — the phone or something else — it means you're mad," he said.
Garcia said his 15-year-old son, who has boxed and wrestled, taught Lesley how to stick up for herself.
"She's rough," her dad said. "She don't play."
Police arrested Macias and Telalyan on March 4 and charged them with robbery, reckless endangerment and endangering the welfare of a child, according to the DA.
A lawyer for Telalyan said she pleaded not guilty, but declined to give further comment. A message left for Macias' lawyer was not returned.
Garcia, though, is still on edge and now drives Lesley to and from her junior high school, where she is in the science and technology track.
"I don't need your phone, I need you," he told her. "Sooner or later, a month, two weeks, I'm going to get a new phone for you.
"But you, I'm not going to get you back."