The father, David Perez, said he left his son Daniel in an SUV while he ran into City Fresh Market on Sunday when an unknown man drove off with his car and child.
"He sent me a text saying, 'Dad, help,' and that just took me, it made it real," Perez said. "He's hysterically crying, and he says, 'Dad please come get me, please come get me, this guy took your car.'"
About 20 minutes later, the man let Daniel out of the car at the corner Bolton and Lafayette streets -- but not before a terrifying ride.
"He was doing like 100 on the freeway, and he crashed twice," Daniel said.
ALSO READ | NAACP calls for officers in viral NJ mall fight video to be disciplined
Once outside the vehicle, Daniel used his cellphone to call his father and tell him his location.
"Luckily I got a video call from my son," David said. "I picked up, and my son was outside the car."
Daniel was texting his dad during the car theft and was terrified, while David was tracking his son's iPhone in a police car trying to catch up.
"I'm still kind of traumatized," Daniel said.
David begged other parents to learn from his mistakes.
"Don't ever leave your kid unattended in the car, not even for one minute," he said.
Still, he insists his son Daniel -- who offered his own advice to parents -- is the hero.
"Get (your) kids a phone if they don't have one," he said. "And always take the key out of the car."
Daniel was taken with minor neck pain from the crashes to NYC Health & Hospitals in Harlem, where he was treated and released.
ALSO READ | Mayor Adams' subway safety plan begins after several violent incidents in NYC
That same night, police say the suspect was seen inside a BP gas station on Hillside Avenue, stealing a cell phone charger.
Anyone with information is asked to call the NYPD's Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477) or for Spanish, 1-888-57-PISTA (74782).
* Get Eyewitness News Delivered
* More Manhattan news
* Send us a news tip
* Download the abc7NY app for breaking news alerts
* Follow us on YouTube
Submit a News Tip