VIDEO: Man steals car with toddler inside

St. Louis and Treme streets, where the child was found (Source: Leigh Isaacson)
St. Louis and Treme streets, where the child was found (Source: Leigh Isaacson)

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Detectives are asking for the public's help in identifying and locating two people wanted in connection with the kidnapping of a 2-year-old during a car theft in Central City that was captured on surveillance video.

The incident occurred Wednesday night just before 10:30 p.m. in the 2100 block of South Claiborne Avenue.

The victim and his friend, who were driving separate vehicles, pulled into a gas station parking lot so the victim could get gas. The victim got out of his car, leaving the keys in the ignition and his 2-year-old daughter inside while his friend sat in his own car and waited.

"Who would get out and run into a gas station and leave your car running? More so, who would leave their child inside of a car? So, this is something that may have and could have been prevented if somebody had just taken a little more precaution," said NOPD Commander Robert Bardy.

"Never leave your child alone in a car that's running. First and foremost, that's one thing you don't want to do," said Ret. NOPD Sgt. Michael LeVasseur.

Shortly after, two black males pulled into the parking lot in a red Chrysler PT Cruiser. The driver of the Cruiser got out and got into the victim's car. He drove off with the victim's daughter still inside.

"This is a crime of opportunity, and it's something that we as citizens should be more aware of," said Bardy.

"Everywhere you go, you want to have situational awareness. Always want your head on a spin, always want to look around," said LeVasseur.

The Cruiser's passenger then got into the driver's side of the Cruiser and drove away. Police said the Cruiser was reported stolen on Monday in a similar manner. It has the license plate XTF472. It is unclear what state the license plate is from.

"It's reported to us that a gentleman had exited his car at Wagner's Market right down on Claiborne and Martin Luther King, and then he went to the back to check his tire, and somebody got in his car. The car was left running," said Bardy.

The friend of the victim, who was still in his car, alerted the victim, and the two tried to chase the perpetrators but lost sight of them.

Around 10:45 p.m., a Good Samaritan saw the victim's daughter wandering on the sidewalk near the intersection of St. Louis and Treme streets and brought her to the 1st District Police Station, where she was later reunited with her father. The child was taken to the hospital as a safety precaution.

Police have not found either car.

Police are investigating whether the father should face charges for leaving his daughter in the car.

"That is not beyond our consideration right now, but right now we want to solve the more serious crime," said Bardy.

The vehicle stolen from the gas station is described as a black 2003 Infiniti G35 with Louisiana License plate XXM725. Inside the car was a black/gray Smith & Wesson .40 caliber handgun.

Officers are trying to enhance the surveillance video in hopes that someone will come forward with an identification.

An NOPD spokesperson reminded drivers not to leave their cars running or children unattended when they are at the gas station.

Anyone with information about this incident is asked to call Crimestoppers at (504) 822-1111.

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