Is a misdemeanor citation enough for leaving a baby in car?
TIGARD, Ore. -- A man was cited for child neglect after leaving his small child in a hot car in the parking lot of a Tigard home improvement store. A store employee broke the window of the car when he saw that a baby had been left inside.
Employee Christian Studebaker went out to the parking lot of the Home Depot where he's worked for the past two months and noticed that customers were making a commotion around a parked sedan in the store's lot.
"I went up to check out what was going on and they said that there was a baby inside the car, so I went up and just reacted," said Studebaker.
He said the window was slightly cracked, so he pulled it all the way down. He unlocked the door and took the child out, bringing the little boy inside the store and in front of several fans to cool off.
Studebaker estimated the boy was 10 to 11 months old and had been in the car alone for about 20 minutes.
"He was just sweating and he had been spitting up," Studebaker said. "I don't know if it was because of the heat, but he was not doing too well."
Tigard police were called to the scene. Studebaker said while he was inside holding the baby, the dad came up and said, "That's my kid."
"And I said, 'Well, you left him in the car and the police are on the way, so you should probably stick around,'" Studebaker said.
Officers then showed up at the Home Depot, at 14800 SW Sequoia Parkway, and talked with the father. But Tigard police spokesman Jim Wolf said the man was not arrested or cited at the scene.
Wolf said the responding officer did not believe the child was in distress. He said the baby had some vomit or spit up on his clothes, but the officer believed the boy was otherwise fine.
Investigators later charged the father with second-degree child neglect, a misdemeanor.
Studebaker said he just hopes the dad learned something from the episode.
"I hope he learned his lesson," Studebaker said. "Hopefully he won't make the same mistake and hopefully people will learn from the situation themselves."
Following the incident, Studebaker got an award for excellent service and he was moved from temporary to permanent status as an employee at Home Depot.
"I was worried at first that I might get in trouble at work for breaking into a customer's car," he said. "But after that, everybody at work was congratulating me. I didn't think it was too big of a deal."
Studebaker, who has a 2-year-old daughter, said, "They come first, always. So, if your arms are full already, you figure out how to accommodate that. And if you can't, you find a different time to do things."
Tigard police Lt. Ricky Rhodes said the case has been referred to the Department of Human Services.