SAN ANTONIO – A 31-year-old man was arrested Thursday in connection with the theft of a pickup truck moments after a father had placed his 1-year-old girl inside the vehicle and went inside his home.
The suspect, Derling Esparza, told reporters the incident "was all a mistake."
Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar described Esparza as "a car thief by profession."
Salazar said Esparza told detectives he had no intentions of stealing the pickup truck in the 7000 block of Celestial Moon around 7 a.m. Wednesday, but changed his mind when he saw the door of the vehicle open and smoke coming from the tailpipe due to the cold morning.
Moments after Esparza drove off, he looked in the rear view mirror and realized the baby was strapped in a car seat, Salazar said. He then decided to ditch the pickup at a Jack In The Box restaurant at 1818 N. Foster Road with the girl alone inside.
Esparza jumped into a car with an accomplice and called the restaurant to tell employees about the baby, who was found unharmed, Salazar said.
The suspect told detectives that if he had more people with him that morning, they could have stolen up to a dozen vehicles due to drivers abandoning their cars waiting for the heater to warm their vehicle.
Esparza is charged with auto theft and endangering a child.