Gulfport police search for man who stole car with toddler inside

GULFPORT, Fla. (WFLA) — Shawn Rodriguez only walked away from his rental car for a moment when he heard something that didn’t sound right.

“I heard my son’s stroller fall off the side of the car, so I knew something was going on and he’s only 18 months old so I knew he couldn’t have been out here,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez came out of the home on York Street South in Gulfport and saw the car driving away.

“I come out and then I see a young black male driving off in my car and I started screaming, my baby, my baby, my baby’s in there,” Rodriguez said.

The driver only made it a few feet before crashing into another vehicle. He then fled on foot.

Gulfport Police Chief Robert Vincent has a theory about what happened.

“I think they didn’t know the kid was in the car .. So same thing happened yesterday,” he said.

Chief Vincent said he believes the man who drove off with the child in the car is part of a group that’s been trolling the streets of Gulfport looking for opportunities.

“Well, just within the past few days we’ve had these cases where young kids are driving around in cars .. They drop off one or two of them where ever they see a car that’s unlocked or running or with the keys in it. They run up real fast and take what they can or take the car,” he said.

On Friday morning, the group picked the wrong house. They spotted a work van parked in front of a home on Jersey Avenue.

Police tell us 18-year old Cedric Critton approached the vehicle and started rummaging through the tools inside.

The van’s owner spotted him and held him at gunpoint until police arrived. They arrested Critton and charged him with petit theft and car burglary.

Rodriguez is thankful that his Thanksgiving ordeal only left him without a few possessions.

“They got my wallet, they got my phone you know my kid’s the most important. That’s all I care about,” Rodriguez said.

Gulfport Police said this case is a reminder to all to lock your car doors. Don’t leave valuables in plain view. And do not leave your keys in the car or your car running when you are not in it.

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