Colorado Springs police said a woman's car was almost stolen with her two kids inside after she left the engine running and doors unlocked in a drug store parking lot.
The incident happened around 7 a.m. Tuesday at the Walgreens near the intersection of Galley Road and Circle Drive.
The car's owner, Takai Beard, didn't know it's illegal to leave a running vehicle unoccupied. Violators can be cited and fined. She also is charged with child neglect. The children, ages 3 and eight months, were not hurt.
"I went to purchase my daughter some milk," said Beard. "She was out of formula. I had to drop them off at day care. It was cold, they had been sick, so it didn't dawn on me. I was half-sick myself. I wasn't thinking."
Beard said the suspect was ahead of her in line in the store, trying unsuccessfully to buy a large number of gift cards. She said she became suspicious of him and looked outside to see if he was approaching her car.
"I came out and my car wasn't even there any more," she said. "It was way back by the entrance. I had parked it at the front of the store."
Beard said she went to her car and found that her kids were fine, then asked her three-year-old son what had happened.
"My son said he (suspect) got in the car, put his hoodie on and drove around. Then my son said I was coming. When he said that, the (suspect) looked back, stopped the car and got out. I saw him run into a jeep and drive away."
Police said they think the suspect intended to steal the car, but changed his mind when he realized children were inside.
Beard said officers would have released her at the scene, but found she had an outstanding warrant for a 2011 assault. She was arrested, taken to jail and booked before posting a $50 bond.
"Honestly, I thought that was petty," she said. "A man hit me during a fight at a club, and then I find out he filed charges against me."
Police allowed Beard to retain custody of her children. She said she's learned her lesson about leaving her children in a car unattended, and leaving the car unlocked and running. But she feels she's being unfairly criticized and judged for making a mistake.
"People are acting as if I'm a bad mother," said Beard. "I was the victim, not the suspect. Blame the man who tried to steal my care."
Police said the incident is a reminder that leaving your car running and unattended is against city and state laws. Police advise that you never leave your children unattended and prevent yourself from being a victim.
"Our No. 1 reason for motor vehicle thefts in the winter is unattended running vehicles," said police spokeswoman Barbara Miller. "It's called puffing. It just helps us tremendously that we don't have to look for a stolen vehicle when it didn't have to be. That's a preventable offense. This situation easily could have ended a lot worse than it did."