By Jeff Black, msnbc.com
A 3-year-old who was in the back seat of his dad’s car when it was hijacked from a convenience store in Colorado is back home after the toddler sought help from a stranger.
The father, Anthony Pettiford, was on his way home from a family gathering early Sunday when he stopped to buy some gum, The Gazette in Colorado Springs reported. Pettiford said he was chatting with friends next to the car when a man jumped into his white 1995 Chrysler New Yorker and took off.
“The only thing that we thought was, ‘we have to catch him,’” Kim Rayford told the station.
As it turned out, the carjacker dropped the boy off a few blocks from the store, where he walked up to a woman’s door.
“Help me. I’m cold,” the boy, wearing a diaper and a thin jacket in snowy weather, told Traci Gilbert.
Gilbert’s adult son drove the boy to find his home. During the search, he waved down a police officer who happened to be looking for the boy. The officer reunited the toddler with his father.
“He never shed a single tear the whole time,” Gilbert told the Gazette.
The Associated Press cited Gilbert as saying she was amazed the toddler made it up the steps to her second-floor duplex carrying a plastic shopping bag containing soy milk, a sippy cup, two diapers, wipes and pajama bottoms.
Pettiford said he’s proud his son. “I’m glad my son went to a good person,” Pettiford told KKTV.
The boy’s name has not been released.
Colorado Springs police said the father is unlikely to be charged since he was standing next to the vehicle when it was carjacked.
The suspect and the New Yorker are still missing.
The boy’s father talks only to 11 News about the terrifying moments after his car was stolen with his son inside. He was just inches from the car when the thief snuck in and took off.
Posted: 4:23 AM Apr 15, 2012
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It’s every parent’s worst nightmare: turning around for a millisecond–and their child disappears.
Anthony Pettiford said he was just inches away from his vehicle when a man snuck into his car and sped away–with Pettiford’s 3-year-old son in tow.
A family friend, Kim Rayford, told 11 News she and her boyfriend tried chasing after the car, but to no avail.
“The only thing that we thought was, ‘we have to catch him,’” Rayford said.
Pettiford told 11 News the nightmare began when he stopped by the 7-Eleven on 331 S. Hancock on his way home from visiting family, and was about to drive away when he saw Rayford and her boyfriend pull up. Pettiford said he stepped out of the car to greet them, leaving his car running, but remained close enough to touch the vehicle.
It was that split second that gave the car thief opportunity to take the car and speed away.
“He was right there, like I said not even 2, 3 feet away from the car and it happened that quick,” Rayford said.
“I was yelling for my kid and for them to stop,” Pettiford said.
To Pettiford’s relief, the gut-wrenching moment ended in a way nothing short of a miracle: the little boy was found just blocks away, unharmed, shortly after the car theft.
“As (the theft) happened I was thinking the worst off the top,” Pettiford told 11 News.
Police are still trying to piece together the minutes after the car was stolen. At some point after the car was stolen, the little boy was dropped off around the intersection of East Cucharras and South Institute, less than a half mile away. Police are uncertain how or why the toddler got out of the car.
“The suspect may not have realized a child was in the car when he stole it, and then after seeing him in the mirror, realized he got more than he bargained for and dropped the child off,” one officer told 11 News, adding that it was only speculation.
The child was able to get himself a block away from where he was dropped off, to the 300 block of South Prospect, where a concerned citizen found him and contacted police. Police said it’s unclear if the child knocked on a door himself, or if the Good Samaritan saw him and came to his assistance.
Pettiford said he’s proud his son knew what to do, and wants to meet the Good Samaritan who helped.
“(I want to) thank him. I’m glad my son went to a good person, so that was another blessing,” Pettiford said.
Police said a forensics investigator who specializes in working with children may be called Monday to interview the toddler in order to better put together how the events unfolded, and hopefully give police more information in which to go after the the thief and would-be kidnapper.
Police say the child’s father will likely not face charges for leaving his car running due to the traumatic nature of the incident, but stress that it is illegal to leave your car running unattended.
“This is an example of the worst thing that can happen if you leave your car running,” one officer told 11 News.
Pettiford and Rayford described the suspect as an Hispanic male, about average height, a thin build, and last seen wearing a white hoodie. He was in the 7-Eleven with another Hispanic male–who was not apparently involved–just before the theft took place.
Police are still looking for the car. The car is a 1995 white Chrysler New Yorker with license plate 083-VGE. If you see this car or have any information on the suspect, call police at 444-7000, or if you wish to remain anonymous, call Crime Stoppers at 634-STOP or text police at 847411 and type CSPD and your tip.