Immigrant girl escaped from detention facility, turned in by shop owner

The girl ran from the nearby doctor's office into Gonzalez Auto Center in Homestead, Florida.
The girl ran from the nearby doctor's office into Gonzalez Auto Center in Homestead, Florida. Photo credit: Google Maps

A Honduran teenager escaped from a US detention facility on Friday (local time), only to be turned in by a shop owner where she sought shelter.

The 15-year-old girl had been held Florida detention facility for three weeks and decided to take the opportunity to run during an outing to the doctor.

She ran from the nearby doctor's office into Gonzalez Auto Center in Homestead.

"We were giving her water and some food, but she stayed in that corner the whole time," Elvis Lopez, a mechanic at the auto centre, told the Washington Post.

"She seemed pretty scared. She kept saying she didn't want to go back."

Mr Lopez called his sister Bertha for help, who called a local non-profit organisation for immigrant families.

"She was very afraid. She said she was from Honduras, and she has no family," Ms Lopez said.

"I told her she would be safe, and we would try to help her."

Before anyone form the organisation could arrive, auto shop owner Frank Gonzalez waved down a passing police officer and pointed to where the girl was hiding.

"It broke my heart to see the girl panicked and scared, not knowing where her father or mother was," Mr Gonzalez told the Washington Post.

Mr Lopez, who was still on the phone to his sister when police showed up, said he heard the girl screaming and crying and begging not to go back.

"She said, 'Please don't punish me, don't touch me, don't hold my hand,'" Mr Gonzalez said, adding that the police treated her gently before handcuffing her "like a human, not a criminal".

Mr Gonzalez said he's glad he told the officers where to find the girl.

"They were going around and around, they knew she was close by," he said.

"It's safer for her in detention than out on the streets with no family. It was a hard decision."

Mr Gonzalez moved to the United States from Cuba with his family in 1971, and said he supports the Trump administration's zero-tolerance border policy.

"People who want to come here, and work for the American Dream, they should get papers and follow the rules," Mr Gonzalez told the Washington Post.

Though he disagrees with the separation of families, Mr Gonzalez said he supports the policy overall, adding, "Let's make America great again."

Police say the girl was returned to the detention facility.

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