ST. PETERSBURG — She was taking off her 1-year-old daughter's shoes when the man with a gun emerged from the bushes Monday morning, police said.
It was just after 10:30 a.m. outside Dell Holmes Park, 2741 22nd St. S, when the man approached her, demanding cash and the bag she was holding, said St. Petersburg police spokesman Mike Puetz.
The man pointed the semiautomatic weapon at her baby.
That's when Michelle Smith, 32, of St. Petersburg set off her car alarm, grabbed her daughter and ran.
"She called 911 right away," Puetz said. "It sounds like she did everything she could."
Police arrived shortly and established a perimeter. They used police dogs to track the man's scent. Two nearby schools — Immaculate Conception Preschool and Academy Prep middle school — were put on temporary lockdown.
The man got away.
Though the crime was frightening, Puetz said, it was the only one of its kind to have been reported at the park, located on the north shore of Lake Maggiore and featuring a popular water playground that includes water bubbling up from the ground, shooting from dolphins and frogs and pouring from arches.
Police recovered Smith's bag, which the robber must have dropped as he fled, Puetz said.
An investigation is ongoing.
"This is one of those things that could happen anywhere," Puetz said. "It's a reminder to be aware of your surroundings, try to be as diligent as you can be, and if you sense people are paying too much attention to you or your kids or what you're doing, get back in your car and leave."
Marissa Lang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8804.