MANDEVILLE, LA (WVUE) - "We got the call a little bit after 2 p.m. Obviously, it was a very frantic call," said Assistant Chief of Mandeville Police Ron Ruple.
That call came from a mother whose vehicle had just been stolen with her 18-month-old baby boy in the back seat.
"That's not something we normally get, so we responded with everything we could at the time," Ruple said.
Surveillance video showed two people approach the woman's vehicle in the parking lot of the Shell Station at Girod and Florida streets. They eventually took off in the car. Moments later, the video shows the child's mother and another customer running out of the store in a panic.
"That's crazy. I'm like, people are really crazy," said Octavia Oaties.
"In the meantime, we get another call saying that there was a lady that was working by a house and saw a child standing in the middle of the road, so of course we told her to grab the child because we were on the way," Ruple said.
Police said the car thieves dropped the toddler off just three blocks from the Shell Station at Highway 190 and Magnolia.
Neighbors came outside to see the commotion.
"I was just going to get the mail and I overheard her saying she found the boy on the street corner," said a neighbor who did not want to be identified.
The child was safe.
"Once we had the child in custody, then it was an issue of we're not letting them get away," Ruple said.
Police continued to investigate, using the woman's cell phone - which was still inside the vehicle - to track the car thieves. They determined the stolen car was traveling on the interstate in Mississippi.
"We were able to continue to track them, and the lady told us that they didn't have a lot of gas in the car when they took it," Ruple said.
The stolen vehicle was spotted in Harrison County, where it appeared the suspects were trying to find a place to get gas. Police moved in, and both were arrested.
"It's two individuals that are transients out of Oklahoma, and just by chance they ended up in Mandeville trying to get to Florida," Ruple said.
"I am shocked because I've never heard of anything happen like that around this area," Oaties said.
"We were lucky. We were lucky that nothing happened to that child," Ruple said.
Ruple said the incident should serve as a reminder to all parents: No matter how safe you think the situation may be, you should never leave a child alone in a vehicle.
"You can't do it for a second," he said. "You do not know what can happen from one second to the next. I'm sure people have done it in the past, but I hope no one will do it in the future. This is a prime example of what can transpire."
Police said the arrested suspects admitted to the crime. They're both booked with theft and kidnapping.