My husband and I were at the supermarket and our baby was being especially fussy, so he took her for a quick drive, the motion of which usually calms her down.
It only took about ten minutes to settle her and I was still in the store (but was unsure how much longer I’d be and there’s poor cell reception inside) so he pulled back into the parking lot to wait for me. It was an unseasonably nice day, so he took her in her car seat to sit on one of the benches outside the store.
He took a business call and had just sat them down, absentmindedly rocking the carrier, when a woman (well dressed, mid thirties, average height, fit build) approached them.
It’s not uncommon for people to ask to play with our baby, she’s got big rosy cheeks, soft whisps of gold hair, and the most adorable gurgely toothless grin, especially when she’s deep into a good nap.
But her nap schedule is paramount, so my husband was preparing to tell the woman she actually couldn’t play with our baby right then.
She walked over right in their direction, brimming with nonchalant confidence, and before he can even finish his sentence explaining she was napping and not to be touched, she picked up the carrier and started walking off.
He was in shock for a minute, not fully believing someone would be ballsy enough to do something so sinister in plain daylight, so he said “excuse me, put her down” as his panic mounted.
She remained calm this entire time, but when he called after her she started walking away more briskly than when she’d approached. He ran full speed ahead tried to grapple the carrier out of her hands, finally resulting to restraining her arms.
This woman yells “HELP, HE’S TRYING TO TAKE MY BABY, KIDNAPPING, 911, HELP” kicking him in the shin and pulling a pink bottle of pepper spray out of her handbag.
Of course, no one in the parking lot was clocking the earlier interaction, and assumed he really was a kidnapper (a lone man in a Deadpool T-shirt versus a tiny well dressed woman.) Immediately a man knocked my husband to the ground and was holding him down.
He could hear bystanders encouraging the woman to file a police report but she was doing a very convincing job of acting shaken up and insisted she just wanted to get home. To make matters worse for my husband, she was driving a minivan.
He was in a raw state of panic, realizing the entire parking lot had banded together to inadvertently facilitate the kidnapping of our daughter. He was begging and pleading with them, but no one was listening. They just kept screaming at him that the jig was up and he needed to lie still and wait for police and stop terrorizing a young mother.
My husband finally had the novel idea to show them family pictures on his phone. But, too panicked to think clearly, this manifested as him shouting “I have pictures of the baby on my phone!”
Which, of course, everyone interpreted as him having either stalking photos, or worse, pornographic images of the baby.
It was at this point that a man, I can’t entirely blame the man considering what he thought was going on, kicked my husband as hard as he could in the ribs.
It was at this point I was coming out of the store and I thought he was being robbed by these people. I was yelling for security, so panicked my chest constricted and I could barely get any sound out. It was only then I realized he did not have our baby with him.
When I saw she was being held by a woman, I was relieved, I thought maybe the woman had intervened to move my daughter out of harms way while my husband was being robbed and was walking away to get help.
I couldn’t find a security guard outside the store so I ran up to the people holding my husband down, waving my wallet, pleading “Take everything you want, just let up and leave us alone.”
And one of the men holding him down said something like “Lady we need to wait for police to deal with him.” And I was so confused, why would the muggers have called the police? I just kept stammering “What do you mean, what are you talking about” and made out someone saying “He tried to abduct that woman’s kid” I did not understand and was sure I’d misheard him. My husband would never hurt a child. And we have four kids, if he were going to commit a crime, bringing home another kid would be at the bottom of his list. I kept trying to understand what the man was saying and suddenly, it all clicked.
I looked around for the woman who had the baby carrier and she was halfway across the parking lot. I went into total ballistic tiger-cub mode, literally leapt out of my heels, and sprinted across the parking lot. I’m not a UFC fighter, I’ve never even taken a self defense class, so all I could think to do was grab the woman by her hair and squeeze her throat with my other hand (which didn’t do much, she was getting away even as I grappled with her). Amazingly, none of the other bystanders had yet to connect that my husband was telling the truth and this woman was absconding with my baby.
I yanked on her hair as hard as I could and that was enough to make her drop the carrier. I was so scared and surprised that I actually just threw myself on top of the carrier, covering the entire thing like a blanket, and stayed that way without saying or doing anything else. The woman left. Not one person tried to stop her. Even though she was clearly leaving without the child she claimed was hers, which would be pretty damn incriminating if I’d watched this scene unfold.
Within the next couple minutes, police had arrived. After all that, there were still several bystanders who explained it as my husband trying to kidnap the baby.
The police, to my horror, assumed that she must not have had bad intentions. The first questions they asked me after getting her description weren’t investigative, they were questions thinly veiled trying to convince me not to pursue charges. Still placing blame on my husband.
A small sampling “Do your husband and the baby look dissimilar? Is there a chance she thought he was abducting the baby and she was trying to intervene?”
“Could your husband have been doing something inappropriate or violent to the baby that would make her feel compelled to extricate the baby from the situation?”
“Did she seem groggy or confused, could she have mistaken either of them for her own family members?”
They spent more time verifying that the baby was actually mine than they concerned themselves with the fact that the baby was not actually hers.
My husband had called his brother at that point who works in an office with a lot of lawyers and connected with one ASAP who gave us the priceless advice to get every officer’s name and badge number, to request copies of the store’s security tapes right away, and to escalate our complaint higher up the chain if these officers weren’t taking us seriously.
Finally, we had reason enough to believe we were being taken seriously, and we went home, and both just shook and cried until we had to get our other kids from school. My husband is seething with rage and grappling with a feeling of helplessness from how little he was able to do, and has two cracked ribs from when the man kicked him. (To the officers’ credit, they did ask if he’d like to press charges, but considering the man was genuinely convinced at the time that he was on the right side of intervening in a kidnapping and stayed to talk to police and apologized profusely when the truth became clear, he declined to press charges.) Amazingly, and frustratingly, there were still people who stuck around to talk to police who were giving my husband dirty looks and one man who even implored the police to involve CPS to verify it was really our baby.
To the Parking lot kidnapper (and parking lot skeptics), you better hope we don’t meet.