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Man steals running car with baby inside, Wilkinsburg police say

WILKINSBURG, Pa. — A man is in custody after Wilkinsburg police say he stole a car with a baby inside on Tuesday morning.

Wilkinsburg Police Chief Ophelia Coleman said a woman left her car running with a baby inside while she went into GetGo.

While the woman was in GetGo, the car was stolen.

Channel 11 exclusively questioned the suspect, Lawrence Barren, 32.

According to officers, just after 8 a.m., the woman and her daughter stopped at the gas station on Penn Avenue. The mother entered the store but left her daughter in the car with the engine running.

That’s when police say Barren jumped into the car, stealing it from the lot. The baby’s mother came out and quickly called 911.

Shortly after, police were notified that a baby was dumped nearby at a home on Franklin Avenue.

“A short while later a phone call came in that a gentleman came into their place and stated that this child was missing, dropped, doesn’t know anything about it,” Coleman said.

Police quickly found Barren and the stolen car in Pitcairn. He was arrested. Chief Coleman says despite officers’ quick actions, she is disappointed that different charges weren’t filed and that the mother wasn’t held accountable too.

“Had the mother not gotten out of the car, and had taken her child with her into the store we would not be sitting here,” Coleman said.

We reached out to the district attorney’s office to ask about the chief’s concerns – but did not hear back.

Police are now using this story as a warning to others.

“If you’re going to warm your car up, make sure it’s locked. Don’t leave it open, running with the keys in for someone to steal,” said Lt. Brandon Rourke with the Wilkinsburg Police Department. “This could have been a tragedy that luckily was avoided.”

Chief Coleman agreed.

“You need to watch your children,” she said. “You’re responsible for your children. Your children did not ask to be here and we need capable, responsible adults.”

Barren is also charged with car theft and receiving stolen property.

Police told Channel 11 earlier that they wanted him charged with kidnapping, but he wasn’t because he claimed he didn’t know the child was in the car.

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