Two kids safe after pair of Minneapolis-area vehicle thefts

Published 6:20 pm Tuesday, February 9, 2021

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ST. PAUL — Two Minneapolis-area car thefts over the weekend in which young children were in the vehicles ended happily, with both kids being found unharmed.

A sharp-eyed suburban Minneapolis grandmother spotted a stolen SUV that triggered an Amber Alert on Saturday afternoon, leading police to the abandoned vehicle and the crying toddler inside.

Barb Gusse, of Brooklyn Center, said she was in her yard when she noticed the idling, white SUV in the parking lot of the Cross of Glory Lutheran Church across the street.

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When she went back inside, an Amber Alert buzzed on her phone saying police were looking for a missing 1-year-old boy and a white Jeep SUV that had been stolen in Minneapolis. Gusse said she grabbed her binoculars and zeroed in on the license plate. It was a match.

“My heart went to my feet,” she told the Star Tribune on Sunday. “I was shaking so bad I couldn’t hold a cup.”

She alerted police and as soon as she saw a squad car pull into the parking lot, she bundled up and rushed outside.

“I could hear that baby crying and you know where my heart went, to the ground. I started shaking and crying,” she said.

Minneapolis police spokesman John Elder said the end result was heartwarming instead of tragic. With a daily high temperature that hovered around zero degrees on Saturday, the child could have died if the car ran out of gas, he said.

“I’m so thankful that he was OK, that he’s with mom and dad,” Gusse said. “That’s all that matters.”

A similar case Sunday evening in St. Paul also ended happily. Someone stole a car left idling in a Walgreens parking lot in St. Paul with a 6-year-old girl inside.

The child’s mother called police after realizing what happened, and officers found the car abandoned a couple of blocks away and the girl unharmed.

Police have not made arrests and said theft is the suspected motive in both cases. Elder said charges were unlikely against the toddler’s mother. Elder said charges were unlikely against the toddler’s mother and St. Paul police Sgt. Mike Ernster said it was too early in the other investigation to say whether the older child’s mother might face charges.