PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) – It’s a worst-nightmare scenario with a fortunate find, as a family’s car was stolen with a baby inside.
It was around 11 p.m. March 11 when Portsmouth Police Officer Michael Greenwalt was patrolling Churchland Boulevard. He noticed an abandoned car in a parking lot behind O’Reilly’s Auto Parts on Academy Avenue with the driver side door wide open. That’s when he found a baby inside.
“I’ve got a set of infant eyes glaring up at me,” Greenwalt said, recalling the moment he found the car and baby.
Chesapeake Police said about a half-hour earlier, they had issued a ‘be on the lookout’ after a car was stolen from the Royal Farms on Churchland Boulevard, with an 8-month-old infant inside.
A father from Maryland was on his way back home with his two children. His older child needed to use the bathroom so he stopped at Royal Farms. He left the car running and unlocked with the infant asleep in the back.
“It was in a onesie. It was completely strapped into the seat. My primary concern was it was about 40 degrees that night,” Greenwalt told 10 On Your Side. “The car was not running, door was wide open and I don’t know how long it had been there.”
Greenwalt says he radioed to dispatch asking them if the stolen car was a white Kia. There was some initial confusion because the father, in a panic, gave the description for a black Lexus, which he normally drives.
Greenwalt said if he hadn’t noticed the abandoned car and stopped to investigate, the infant would have been in 40 degree temperatures for close to 10 hours.
The infant, white Kia and family were quickly reunited. While this story has a happy ending, Greenwalt also wants it to serve as a warning.
“It probably would have sat there most of the night, probably half of the day because no one shows up at that particular area and Sunday most of those businesses are closed,” Greenwalt said.
Chesapeake Police are still investigating the incident and are searching for a suspect. Anyone with information about this incident is asked to call the Crime Line at 1-888-LOCK-U-UP or submit a tip to P3Tips.com or on the P3Tips app.
“I can’t emphasize it enough, we have larcenies from motor vehicles, we have motor vehicle thefts,” Greenwalt said. “These people prey on people like this, that come up to a 7-Eleven, a gas station. “
“I was proud that we were able to get the child out all in one piece. The vehicle back in one piece and everybody reunited and back together. That right there is what makes what I do worth doing.”
Thieves watch for vehicles to be left unattended, with the keys inside. The organization Kids and Car Safety provides the following tips for parents:
- Never leave a child of any age or pet alone in a vehicle, not even for a minute.
- Use drive-thrus or curbside pickup so you don’t have to leave your vehicle.
- If a business doesn’t offer curbside delivery, call upon arrival and ask them to bring your order to your car. Most people are more than happy to accommodate you when you tell them you have small children. It takes a village!
- Keep car doors locked and keys on your person when pumping gas with children inside the vehicle.