'I thought someone was playing a joke': Father says thief jumped into his car moments after leaving son in vehicle

Update (11:15 a.m.) Ronald Tubbs Jr. said Wednesday the thief that took his 12-month-old boy while stealing his 2013 Chrysler 200 jumped into his car just moments after he closed the vehicle's door and was beginning to open the door to the Shell gas station Tuesday night.

The boy, Ronald Grey, and the car were recovered at about 12:15 a.m. on Ukraine Drive, about two blocks away from the gas station.

Tubbs said he "used bad judgment" when he left Grey unattended, but felt he was safe considering the circumstances.

The 27-year-old father said he had just picked up Chinese food across the street Tuesday evening when he drove over to get some drinks. Tubbs parked his car, which he just purchased a month ago, in front of the gas station entrance, where an employee was outside emptying the coolers.

As Tubbs was heading toward the door an unidentified man jumped into his car and drove off, he said.

"I thought someone was playing a joke," Tubbs said. "I was looking around and asking questions. Then the panic hit me."

According to the father, the gas station's video cameras recorded the entire thing.

Someone nearby that Tubbs knew let them take their car and drive around to see if he could find his son and car. After talking with police, he met them at the Family Dollar on Buena Vista Road, where he and the entire family stayed until officials found Ronald Grey after midnight.

The boy's mom, Natasha Grey, and Tubbs met officials at the scene where they were allowed to remove him from the car. The boy's father said he was asleep and doing well.

Many patrons of the Shell gas station were surprised Wednesday morning to learn of the abduction which occurred just 12 hours earlier.

Buena Vista resident Danielle Smith said even though the abduction was shocking, she couldn't empathize with leaving a child in a running car.

"Especially not on this side of town," she said. "There's a lot of people here without cars, and they're looking for an opportunity to take something."

Neicy Willburn, of Warrenton, said she has left her child in her car while it's running before, but was shocked to hear that someone would take the unattended car.

"My child is 8 years old," she said. "She could lock the car door if someone tried to get in there. But that's crazy. He shouldn't have taken the car."

Tubbs said Wednesday that officials kept the Chrysler to get fingerprints and hopefully other clues to lead to an arrest.

"It was a spur of the moment thing," said Tubbs, who did not see the man. "They have a picture of him and the whole thing on camera. They'll have his fingerprints. I hope they get him.

"It was very scary. You can't trust no one these days."

Update (6:44 a.m.)

Columbus police say the 12-month-old boy who was kidnapped by a car thief Tuesday at the Shell gas station on St. Mary's Road was found in good health less than a mile away shortly after midnight Wednesday.

Police told the Ledger-Enquirer that Sgt. Mark Richards sent a notice to search parties at about 12:15 a.m. Wednesday, stating that the boy was well and back in the custody of his parents. He was reportedly found on Ukraine Drive in the stolen 2013 Chrysler 200. According to Google Maps, the road the boy and car were found is less than a mile away from the gas station.

According to reports, 1-year-old Ronald Gray was taken at about 8:30 p.m., from the gas station after the suspect jumped into the unattended car and headed north toward I-185. About 30 minutes later, police flagged down the boy's father near Cricket Columbus on Buena Vista Road. He reportedly went looking for his son and car after the vehicle was taken.

The reports listed the suspects as "unknown." No description was available.

A police representative was not available for comment Wednesday morning.

Original story

Columbus police were searching for a 12-month-old boy late Tuesday after a car thief jumped inside a 2013 Chrysler 200 left running at the BP station at 3809 St. Marys Road.

Police Sgt. Anthony Locey said the theft of the vehicle occurred about 9:25 p.m. at the corner of North Oakley Drive after the father stopped at the convenience store, left the car running and walked inside. The father didn’t see anyone nearby before he entered the store.

Locey said it’s possible the car thief wasn’t aware that the child was inside the vehicle. “It’s possible, but we don’t know,” he said. “We are still working every angle.”

Police are working with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to put out an Amber Alert and Levi’s Call to broadcast the search for the vehicle and child.“We are working with the GBI to put that out right now,” he said. “We are trying to get a picture of the child also.”

The missing child and vehicle hadn’t been spotted by 11 p.m. The gray Chrysler has a a tag CBB 8364.

Reporter Ben Wright wrote the original report.

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