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Carjacker steals van with 3-year-old in backseat in Salt Lake City

Posted at 6:01 PM, May 16, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-17 00:11:13-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake City Police is asking for help in finding a man who stole a car with a young child inside Thursday afternoon.

Thanks to Good Samaritans and police officers, the little girl was found a few miles away and reunited with her mother.

Police said the woman was stopped in a left turn lane lane on 2100 South near 700 East, waiting to make a U-turn when a man ran up and opened the driver side door.

"He just pulled her out. The word was 'yanked.' So, yanked her out of the car," said Salt Lake City Police Lieutenant Jenn Diederich.

He took the minivan, with a 3-year old girl inside, and Lt. Diederich said he headed westbound.

"Witnesses saw this happen, and they followed him," she said. Witnesses began to call police as they followed the man to 2100 South and State Street.

The minivan disappeared, and police began to focus all efforts on finding the van-- and little girl.

Officers tracked down surveillance photos of a "person of interest" who is seen in a store on the corner of 2100 South and 700 East.

30 minutes later on West Temple at Fayette Avenue, across the street from Publik Coffee Roasters, a man found a little girl alone and crying hysterically for her mother.

He brought the girl into Publik, where manager Josh Edgar works.

"Initially, we thought that someone had just dropped her off and had abandoned her," he said.

They called police, and while waiting, cheered the girl up. Edgar said the customer who found the girl played cartoons on his phone for her. They gave her water and banana bread.

"Super comforting, holding her, just in a very fatherly way," Edgar said, of the Good Samaritan.

They could never guess the girl was ditched by a car-jacker, with a mom worried sick over her whereabouts. He said it was overwhelming to find out, especially seeing the girl in that state.

Police quickly brought the mother over to reunite with her little girl.

"To see the reaction of the mom and child both at the same time seeing each other again... That's kind of the overwhelming part," he said.

The carjacker is still out there, along with the van.

The van is a light green/gray 2001 Honda Odyssey with Utah license plate W05 4VG.

Anyone with information is asked to contact police at (801) 799-3000 and reference case No. 19-86814.

This is a developing story. It will be updated as new information becomes available.