NEW ORLEANS - Police are searching for the men who stole a car at a gas station, only to find out a two year old was in the back seat. It happened around 10:30 p.m.Wednesday at a Shell station in the 2100 block of S. Claiborne Avenue.
Gas station surveillance video shows the victim pulling up to a pump in a black 2003 Infinity G35. When he went inside to pay, he left the vehicle running with his 2-year-old daughter in the back seat, said police. The headlights and wipers were still, and a .40 caliber handgun was also inside the car.
Then, two African-American men pulled up in a red PT Cruiser. The driver gets out, then gets into the victim's car and speeds off with the toddler still inside.
The passenger also gets out, hesitates for a moment, then gets into the PT Cruiser’s drivers seat, and drives off as well.
Police say it's a crime of opportunity.
“Who would get out, run into a gas station, and leave your car running? More so, who would leave their child inside of a car? This is something that may have and could have been prevented if somebody would just take a little more precaution,” said New Orleans Police Sixth District Commander Robert Bardy.
The assistant pastor of Israel Baptist Church next door said he’s not surprised by the crime.
“In this area, you have a lot of homeless people, you have a lot of drug dealers, you have a lot of alcoholics that's walking up and down this street all night. I'm pretty sure the person who left their kid in the car, I'm pretty sure they knew what type of area this was,” said assistant pastor Malcolm Bacchus.
Amazingly, the little girl was found just 15 minutes later about two miles away, wandering the sidewalk near the intersection of St. Louis and Treme Streets. That’s near the back of St. Louis #1 Cemetery and a construction zone where crews are tearing down the former Iberville housing development
Police say a Good Samaritan brought the toddler to the nearby First District Police Station, where she was reunited with her father.
Police say the girl was taken to the hospital as a precaution, and is OK.
No word on the Good Samaritan's identity, but passersby say a lot of people in the French Quarter service industry park in the area and are walking to back to their vehicles around the time the little girl was found.
“Once he committed the crime and realized the child was there, at least he had the decency to get her close to a police station,” said Bardy.
Police said it's not the first time the suspects have stolen a car left running at a gas station. They say the PT Cruiser the suspects were driving Wednesday night last night was stolen Monday earlier at a the Valero gas station, formerly Wagner’s Meat Market, just a block away.
In that instance, the car’s owner checked on a rear tire when a man entered the vehicle and drove off. Police said there is no video of that crime.
Police said the girl’s father may face charges for leaving her alone in the car.
Police continue to search for a black 2003 Infinty G35 with Louisiana plate XXM725 and a red PT Cruiser with Louisiana plate XTF472.
If you have any information on the whereabouts of the vehicles or the identities of the suspects, call Crimestoppers at 822-1111.