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Man steals pickup truck with toddler inside

City News Service | 10/9/2012, 8:53 a.m.

LAWNDALE, Calif.--A 21-year-old man who allegedly stole a pickup truck in Lawndale with a 2-year-old boy inside was behind bars today, and the toddler was safely back with his family.

The boy's 42-year-old father had just strapped the child into the truck when he returned to his apartment near 173rd Street and Grevillea Avenue at 2:48 p.m. Monday to get a diaper bag he had left behind, said Sgt. Paul Schuerger of the Los Angeles County sheriff's South Los Angeles Station.

When he returned moments later, the pickup, which had been left running with the air conditioner on, was being driven away, he said.

The father called 911 and within five minutes, deputies located the pickup a few blocks away in the area of 168th Street and Hawthorne Boulevard and pulled it over, Schuerger said.

They arrested the suspect, later identified as Christopher Smith of Inglewood, and booked him on suspicion of kidnapping and grand theft auto, Schuerger said. He was jailed at the South Los Angeles Station in lieu of $100,000 bail and was due in court on Wednesday in Torrance, according to sheriff's online booking records.

The child, upset and crying but unharmed, was returned to his father, Schuerger said.

It was unclear if Smith knew the child was in the truck when he took it, said sheriff's Sgt. Charles McDaniels of the South Los Angeles Station. But when he was pulled over, Smith claimed the boy was his nephew, though he didn't know his name, McDaniels said.