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Baby found safe inside stolen car in Santa Fe

July 28, 2018

Santa Fe police on Friday arrested a man accused of stealing a car in a motel parking lot with a sleeping infant inside.

Officers spotted the car a couple of hours after the theft was reported, Lt. Michele Williams said. And although the suspect had a minor collision during a police pursuit, the baby was found safe and healthy, and was returned to the family, she said.

The suspect, a 37-year-old man whose identity was not released Friday evening, is facing felony charges of unlawful taking of a motor vehicle, aggravated fleeing, child endangerment and false imprisonment. He also faces a misdemeanor for driving with a revoked license.

Williams said the incident began around 3:30 p.m., when the infant’s parents and two older siblings left the baby in their blue 2004 Chrysler PT Cruiser in the parking lot of a Motel 6 on Cerrillos Road.

“The baby was asleep in the car,” Williams said, “and they went inside to use the restroom really quickly.”

It was still unclear if the car was running and whether it was locked, she said.

“We’re looking into that right now. The car was still running we think, but I don’t know if it was locked or not,” Williams said.

The father came out of the motel and discovered the suspect fleeing in the vehicle, she said, adding that the man arrested had “no relation whatsoever” to the family.

“I’d like to acknowledge that the dad saw the vehicle driving away and tried chasing him,” Williams said. A bystander saw the panicked father and picked him up in a vehicle, she said, and together they attempted to chase down the stolen Cruiser.

They lost track of the vehicle as it was driving southbound on Cerrillos Road.

A couple of hours later, however, a police officer spotted the vehicle “just by luck” at Alta Vista Street and St. Francis Drive, Williams said.

The suspect led officers on a pursuit through city streets for about a mile and then had a collision at the intersection of Navajo Drive and Nambe Street, she said, where he fled on foot.

Eventually, officers caught the man in a backyard on Nambe Street and took him into custody.

Numerous police officers, K-9 handlers and a helicopter aided the arrest, she said.

The baby, who Williams said was properly secured in a front-facing car seat in the back seat of the vehicle, “was checked out medically and is fine.”

Because the infant was inside the car for a brief amount of time before the car was stolen, Williams said, the parents likely will not face charges.

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