KENNER, La. -- Kenner police are looking for a woman they claim abandoned an infant outside Esplanade Mall after an alleged shoplifting incident Saturday night.
The baby’s mother is now under arrest after misleading detectives about the incident and identifying the wrong woman for the crime.
It appears Kenner police spent most of the day searching for a person of interest, who apparently had nothing to do with the crimes. The baby’s mother, Stephanie Johnson, is now in police custody, and police are now looking for her sister in law.
The bizarre crime unfolded at the Esplande Mall Saturday night. Police say a woman pushing a baby boy in a stroller stole some items from the children’s clothing store Gymboree.
A sales associate noticed the woman placing some items into the stroller and confronted her about the alleged shoplifting.
The associate did not want to be identified.
“I was asking our store manager if we could just possibly ban her from the store and not take her to jail, but I guess she panicked and I went to the back to call my store manager and not even for a second and I heard the Taser go off,” the sales associate said.
Police say the woman shot a mall security guard with a stun gun, pushed the baby stroller into the parking lot, left the infant and drove from the scene.
Johnson told police the woman who abandoned her child at the mall was Brittany London, but she told police she wasn’t even in the area Saturday night, and that Johnson took her name from Facebook.
“I was sleeping and they woke me up, and as soon as they told me about it and I (saw) it on TV, I was shocked,” London said. “My heart start beating fast, like, I (have) never been arrested before, and this is my first time going through something like this.”
London added that she doesn’t know Johnson “at all.”
Kenner Police Department Chief Steve Caraway held a late afternoon news conference to announce a new person of interest, Johnson’s sister in law, Charbaney Smith. Police say she was babysitting the child over the weekend.
The chief says the mother was protecting Smith and that’s why she mislead detectives.
“Detectives will be getting warrants for her for aggravated battery, theft and child desertion. She’s 24 years old, she currently has warrants out for her arrest out of New Orleans for theft and simple battery,” Caraway said.
The baby’s mother is now facing criminal charges of her own. This afternoon police booked Johnson with obstruction, injuring public records and inconsistent statements.
“Criminals often point the fingers at other people, and that’s just the type of work we’re in,” Caraway said.
Police say the guard who was Tased at the mall identified Smith from a photo lineup. Police are in the process of obtaining an warrant for her arrest.
The 2-month-old infant is now in the custody of the maternal grandmother.