CLAYTON, N.C. (WNCN) – A Johnston County mother says she’s learned a life lesson after she watched a stranger get in her car and drive off with her two kids still inside.
Gabriel Rand went with her kids, 7-year-old Jaylin and 3-year-old Amiyah, to the Han-Dee Hugo’s on Pritchard Road Saturday around 11:15 p.m. near their home.
As she went inside, she said a man approached her.
“And he basically was like, he wasn’t doing good because he didn’t have a place to stay. And I was like, ‘Oh, well I’m sorry.’ And before I could grab the door handle something told me, turn around, go get the kids and lock the door. But, I ignored it. I was like, well I’m literally going to go in there for two seconds and literally hand the money,” Rand recalled.
She had left her car unlocked and running. She turned around and says she saw the man grab the driver’s side door handle.
“He’s holding my driver door like this looking at me. And, I’m looking at him. So, he’s still standing like this. And, I’m looking at him like please don’t do it. Please don’t do it,” she said.
Then, she saw him take off with her kids still inside.
She said, “So, I’m chasing him through the parking lot screaming, ‘My babies are in there! My babies are in there! He stole my car!’”
Clayton police say the man at the wheel was Brian Allen, Jr. He told police he didn’t realize when he first got in that the kids were in the vehicle. He let Rand’s son use a phone inside to talk to his stepfather. At the time, he was driving on I-95 trying to get back home.
Allen did not get far with the car after it got stuck nearby along Covered Bridge Road. Police were able to find him and the kids there unharmed. Rand said her kids told her that Allen went back and forth into a home there, locking the kids inside the car each time.
“I just want justice for my kids. I understand this is a life lesson, that no matter what as a parent don’t ever second guess that gut instinct. Don’t ever take the chance of saying, ‘Oh it’s only two seconds. Oh, it’s only five seconds I’m gonna be in there.’ Don’t ever do it. If it means you gotta unbuckle that car seat belt 30,000 times you’re just gonna have to,” she said.
Allen appeared in court Monday morning on kidnapping and larceny charges. During his hearing he said, “I turned myself in.”
His father, Brian Allen Sr., came to the hearing to support his son. He said his son had contacted him before the events of Saturday night to say a woman had threatened him with a knife.
“He was sorry. He didn’t mean to do that. But, he was just trying to get out of a bad situation where a girl was trying to stab him,” Allen said. “No, it doesn’t excuse what happened. No, sir.”
Clayton Police Chief Blair Myhand said Gabriel Rand won’t face charges for leaving the children in the car.
“She’s watching as someone is driving her kids away in the car. She got the message that this is not a smart thing to do,” he said.
Rand commended her seven-year-old son for how he handled the situation, saying he remained calm as police tried to find him and his sister.
“I couldn’t be more proud of my son. I couldn’t be more proud of a seven-year-old who has literally just been kidnapped, him and his baby sister, and he’s just so calm,” she said.
Brian Allen Jr. will be back in court on March 28.