updated 9/21/2006 9:33:55 PM ET 2006-09-22T01:33:55

People got behind and pushed and even offered an impromptu driving lesson to help a boy who was struggling to drive a car — all without realizing that the 14-year-old was stealing the vehicle, police said.

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The boy stopped mid-getaway Wednesday to ask for help, and at least 15 people responded, according to Phoenix police. Police said the boy then got stuck in reverse, and more neighbors helped him push the car.

When he still couldn't figure out how to operate the manual transmission, police said he asked a passer-by for an impromptu driving lesson. Margarita Wood tried to give him directions through the car window and finally climbed in to help.

Police said none of the would-be Samaritans realized the vehicle was stolen or that the driver was underage.

"It is incredible that an entire neighborhood would participate in this comedy of errors," said Sgt. Dave Norton.

"Nobody asked why a 14-year-old is out with a vehicle and doesn't know how to drive it," said Norton. "His looks and size should've made bells and whistles go off in people's minds."

Police caught up with the boy after some city workers and other residents spotted the erratic driver and called 911. The teenager was taken into custody along with the woman teaching him to drive. The woman was released.

Police said the car belongs to a friend of the boy with whom he had been staying. The owner declined to press charges.

The boy was given citations and released to his grandmother.

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