IMPERIAL, Mo (KMOV.com) – Police have charged a man who allegedly stole a vehicle from a Jefferson County gas station on Wednesday while a toddler was still in the backseat.
Ryan Beckler, 21, was charged with stealing a motor vehicle, first-degree child endangerment and third-degree resisting arrest and assault on a law enforcement officer.
Police said a 25-year-old woman pulled into the Phillips 66 gas station on Old Route 21 around 5:20 p.m. She got out and went inside the store, leaving her 19-month-old daughter sitting inside the running vehicle.
The victim said she was only inside for a moment, but when she came out, the vehicle was gone. Police were called to the scene and began a search for the vehicle.
The vehicle was spotted a short time later in the driveway of a nearby residence.
Police say a neighbor, Al Schmidt, lives about a mile from the gas station where the car was found. Schmidt said he was coming home from deer hunting when he encountered Beckler in front of his home.
Schmidt said Beckler appeared flustered and told him he had found the child along the road.
Beckler then took the child and the child seat out of the vehicle and told Schmidt he had to go. He then sped away in the stolen vehicle.
The child was unharmed and is now with her mother.
Authorities said a deputy later spotted a Jeep matching the vehicle’s description along Highway 141 near Fenton. The officer tried to pull the vehicle over, but Beckler got out and attempted to flee on foot.
The officer caught up to him after a brief chase and took him into custody.
Authorities say the mother may also face charges for leaving her child unattended.