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OGDEN — Ogden police said it ended up being a "good call" in more ways than one.
A 3-year-old boy, Aiden, was safely returned to his mother Tuesday after a man stole his mother's vehicle while he was still in the back seat. The boy was found quickly, in part, because he knew how to use his mother's cellphone.
Just before 7 a.m., Elizabeth Barrios was dropping off her infant brother at a day care facility in the 100 block of 2nd Street. She was away from the car that she left running in the driveway for two minutes. But what she saw when she came back outside horrified her.
"My car was driving away with my 3-year-old inside of it," she said. "It just scared me so much."
Barrios used the day care provider's phone to call 911.
"Someone stole my car and my baby's in there," she tearfully told the dispatcher. "I didn't see anything, I just saw it drive away."
Several times Barrios is heard in the 911 call crying, "My baby's in there!"
Officers from two different shifts immediately began looking for the boy, said Ogden Police Lt. Tim Scott.
Barrios then told officers that her cellphone was still inside her car.
"They came up with the idea that they're going to contact this cellphone. One of two things could potentially happen: the 3-year-old could possibly answer it … or the suspect himself could answer the phone and they could negotiate the safe return of the child," said Scott, who noted that the department was minutes away from issuing an Amber Alert.
The plan worked.
"It was a good call by the officers on the scene," Scott said.
He was just telling me, 'The guy's going through your purse, he's getting your purse,' and I was like, 'It's OK, stay calm. Just sit in your seat. Everything will be OK.'
–Elizabeth Barrios, mother
Aiden answered the phone while the thief was still inside the vehicle.
"He was just telling me, 'The guy's going through your purse, he's getting your purse,' and I was like, 'It's OK, stay calm. Just sit in your seat. Everything will be OK.' He just sat in his seat until the guy left, told me the guy left. And the officer then instructed me to tell him to get into the front seat, lock the doors and start honking the horn until somebody finds him," Barrios said.
"He was scared, he was crying. He kept repeating that he loved me. But he was brave enough to do what he did."
One of the overnight officers who stayed late to help search heard the sound of a honking horn. He was a just a few blocks away when he found the child, less than 20 minutes after the initial call was made to police. The vehicle was parked along a curb; the thief was gone.
Several of Barrios' personal belonging were missing. But Aiden was not injured.
"He left my son, that's all that matters to me," she said.
The man apparently never even said anything to Aiden.
In addition to being grateful that the man did not drive far away, harm the child or try to take the phone away from him, investigators said they also initially feared that the boy might leave the car and wander off after it was abandoned.
Police did not release information about the thief, saying they had some leads about his identity.
Officers also said the incident is a good reminder that drivers should never leave their cars running unattended. While police were looking for Aiden, dispatchers received calls about two other vehicles that were stolen while left warming up in driveways, Scott said.
Barrios admitted that until now, she did that all the time.
"Be very careful, even if you don't think it will happen to you. It can," she said.