New Albany, IN (WAVE) - When a baby is left alone in a car the consequences can be devastating. One mother says she is in disbelief after a local police department said they couldn't help her, when her one year old son locked himself inside a vehicle.
So she called the WAVE 3 Troubleshooter Eric Flack to get answers about why officers didn't respond. A New Albany dispatcher told the mother, it's not the police department's job to get her one year old out of a locked SUV. A statement that turned out, to be wrong.
Aneshia Nunley always keeps her 18 month old son Kingston by her side. But a trip to a New Albany gas station left her in desperate need of assistance.
"I'm nervous, I'm panicked," she said of the moments after Kingston found himself locked inside her vehicle. "I'm trying to get someone to help me"
According to a recording of the 911 call she made that night, this is part of the conversation she had with a New Albany Police dispatcher:
Nunley: "My son's in the car by himself. I'm not saying it's your fault, but at the same time you all are not helping any. My one year old son's in the car."
Dispatcher: "You know ma'am I can't help that every officer in the city of New Albany doesn't have a lock out kit."
Kingston had wiggled free from his car seat and hit the door lock button while she was pumping gas around 7:15 at night at the Swifty on Spring Street. Also locked inside the mother's key's, wallet and cell phone.
When Aneshia couldn't get Kingston to unlock the door she ran inside the gas station to get help. The attendant told her the phone was for 911 use only. So that's who Aneshia called.
But the dispatcher refused to send an officer, and told Aneshia she would have to call a wrecker.
Dispatcher: "Once the wrecker got there he would open it and then you could get your purse out to pay him."
Aneshia "Okay well I don't have a number for a wrecker."
Dispatcher: "I mean I can give you the number for the wrecker."
Aneshia: "Since when don't the police come and help you? They help you with anything else."
Dispatcher "Well, since when? It's a liability thing. I mean they can't be...What happened was they keep opening doors and people try and sue them for a broken lock."
New Albany Police Major Keith Whitlow now says that dispatcher should have done more. Whitlow told me the department doesn't open doors for every driver who locks keys in the car. But he said it's also department policy to send out help when a baby or toddler is locked inside a car, especially when there is elevated danger. In this case, Whitlow said the risk was heightened by the fact the SUV was parked next to a gas pump.
Major Whitlow said the dispatcher has been coached on how to react better in the future.
"You got a child locked in a car, we're going to want that first responder to try and get him out," Major Whitlow said.
The New Albany Police Department recently bought 4 pop a lock kits to increase the number carried by officers in the field although Major Whitlow said that wasn't prompted by this incident.
Aneshia said she filed a complaint with New Albany Police but has not heard back. And remains upset officers were not there, when she needed them.
"I mean had I left him in the car alone, they could have easily arrested me for endangering the welfare of a minor," Aneshia said. "But because my son locked himself outside the car they were basically like call somebody else."
Aneshia finally persuaded a passerby to loan her his cell phone to call a family member, who brought out another car key. Kingston was not injured.
To avoid something like this from happening to you, Major Whitlow suggests:
Carry an extra key on your person when you get out of vehicle
Never leave a child in a car unattended
When a child is old enough teach them how to unlock the car
A Louisville Metro Police spokeswoman told the WAVE 3 Troubleshooter Department LMPD does not have a set policy on assisting parents with small children locked inside the vehicle. LMPD said MetroSafe would dispatch fire or police if there was danger to the child, like extreme temperatures or the car was running.
The spokeswoman said LMPD officers do not carry pop-a-lock kits, and would have to break a window to free a small child from a car if there was imminent danger.
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