CLEVELAND -- Just after midnight Tuesday morning Cleveland police scoured the near west side for a stolen minivan with a 3-year-old in the back.
It was a top priority for dozens of officers to prevent the driver from getting out of the neighborhood near MetroHealth Medical Center.
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"I immediately thought -- if I were the driver, where would I hide the van? Because the minute he saw the kid in the back, he'd be looking to dump the vehicle," said 12-year police officer Jaime Cruz.
"Most of the cars stolen on the west side head east, and I thought this guy would take side streets that don't have cameras."
Cruz grew up in the neighborhood -- and with a 3-year-old grandson of his own, he had special motivation.
"We turned onto West 23rd Place, saw the van -- the driver had fled -- but the boy was in the back seat, sleeping the whole time. All he kept saying was 'Why did mommy leave me?' We said, 'We'll take you to mommy.' "
He and his partner found the vehicle 30 minutes after the crime was committed.
Police say the mother claims she left the boy in the car for a short time, so she could pick up her father to go shopping. Prosecutors are reviewing possible child neglect charges.
As for the person who stole the minivan, police do not yet have any suspects.