HOUSTON -

A mother of two was held at gunpoint and robbed in her own apartment.

"He hit me with a pistol behind my ear," Cierra Alexandre said.

She said the only thing worse than the pain from being pistol-whipped was the hurt she felt knowing that it happened in front of her 5- and 9-year-old children.

"The kids were screaming, screaming, screaming," Alexandre said.

When the three robbers couldn't find any money in the apartment, Alexandre said one of them beat up her friend and shot him in the back.

"I've never experienced nothing like this before, never,"Alexandre said.

She says the men knew where she lived because they followed her from the Walmart on Crosstimbers at the North Freeway where they tried to steal her purse after she cashed her income tax check, to a restaurant at Little York and Highway 59, to her apartment in northeast Houston.

"My daughter is 9 and she kept saying 'Momma, I think there's a car following us,' but I didn't pay any attention to it," Alexandre said.

She said the assailants came to her apartment looking for her friend. When they knocked on the door she didn't recognize them because they were no longer wearing ball caps.

They forced their way in when she answered and she said that's when they tried to rob her.

Alexandre said her daughter was so upset she went after one of the crooks.

"My 9-year-old, she was trying to fight for the iPad and was actually trying to get it from the boy. Her knuckles are bruised. He actually hit her," Alexandre said.

The assailants stole her friend's van. Police found it less than a mile from the apartment. Someone had set it on fire.

Police dusted for prints and collected evidence at the apartment.