A suspected car thief was taken into custody after allegedly dropping off a 1-year-old who was found inside the stolen vehicle at a Fort Worth church childcare center Tuesday morning, police said.
According to police, an employee with Saintsville Childcare on McClellan Court called 911 and reported that a man in a hoodie with a handkerchief covering his face left the child.
The suspect was identified Tuesday evening by Fort Worth police as 36-year-old Henry Lee Dove.
December Johnson, a preschool teacher at the center, said she never saw Dove, but he honked multiple times to get someone's attention. Once another parent opened the door, he allegedly sped off.
That's when the toddler was found by the door, Johnson said.
"My reaction was, 'What in the world?' Like, 'I'm going to have to call someone to figure out what to do this with this baby because it was obviously a baby that didn't go here,'" she said. "She [toddler] was neatly dressed. She had a coat and new clothes on, I was like… she was fine. She had a little pacifier in her hand."
Officer Brad Perez with the Fort Worth Police Department said initially, police received a call just before 8 a.m. about a car stolen from the 2700 block of Canton Drive with a child inside.
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Family members told NBC 5, the child was originally being dropped off at the Canton Drive address to be cared for by her grandmother.
Perez said the vehicle the child was in, a blue Chevrolet Malibu, was left running. Officers were able to find the car in the back of an apartment community near Tierney Road and E. Lancaster Avenue, but it was empty.
They later received a call about the child being dropped off at the childcare center and later found Dove.
"While he was inside the vehicle, he changed his clothes," Perez said. "Then he jumped over a fence into a creek area and that's where we caught him."
Police said Dove was transported to a local hospital to treat lacerations on his hands before he was booked. They said this should serve as a good reminder about the possible implications of leaving cars running and unattended.
"The fact is, this time of year when it's cold, the exhaust is seen. All of it takes is someone seeing exhaust from a vehicle that appears to be unoccupied that they will come up and check," Perez said. "If it is unlocked and the key is in there, the vehicle is stolen."
The child was reunited with her family unharmed, according to police.
Dove faces charges of auto theft and possession of a controlled substance.
NBC 5's Eline de Bruijn contributed to this report.