A daughter and her mother were labeled heroes after reporting a lost 3-year-old boy in a Walmart parking lot last week.
Just before noon July 28 in the Gainesville Walmart Supercenter parking lot, located at 1800 NE 12th Ave., Katrice Miller and her mother, Janice Hamilton, saw what looked like a lost child sitting on the curb. Next to him was a man on a bicycle and a man in a vehicle, Miller said.
“I didn’t know what was going on, but my motherly instincts told me to approach the situation,” Miller said. “The boy looked lost and confused.”
Miller said she saw the man in the vehicle getting out to reach for the boy, spurring her to approach the men and ask if they were related to the child.
Miller said the man on the bicycle told her he didn’t know the child, and he found him walking alone on a street while biking in a nearby neighborhood. She said the man wasn’t carrying a phone with him at the time, so he went to find help for the child at Walmart.
The man in the vehicle told Miller the bicyclist had originally approached him for help, Miller said.
Neither of the men had reported the lost child to the police.
Miller took the boy to her car and called 911 at 11:45 a.m., she said. The men drove away five minutes after Miller and her mother arrived.
The 3-year-old boy told Miller his name and nothing else, she said. They gave him a bottle of water to drink and cleaned him with a towel.
“I’m glad I went back to ask what was going on,” Miller said. “If I hadn’t, who knows what could’ve happened. If it was my child, I would’ve wanted someone to do the same.”
Lt. Matt Nechodom of Gainesville Police said he arrived at the scene with four other officers. Miller, Hamilton and the boy were waiting in a car.
Miller and Hamilton stayed until his mother arrived.
Nechodom said because the two men left before police arrived, neither of them could be identified.
“We don’t know the intent of the two individuals,” Nechodom said. “We can only say we’re glad these women arrived when they did.”
Nechodom said the mother of the boy, Candice Kinney, told police she didn’t know the boy was missing, and her 16-year-old niece was asked to baby-sit the child while Kinney was at work.
Nechodom said the boy was supposed to be staying at his grandmother’s house, a block away from where he was located. The niece left the house to run an errand, assuming there was someone at home watching the boy.
“His mother was crying when she got there,” Nechodom said. “As a parent of three, I couldn’t imagine the relief she felt knowing he was unscathed after all of this.”
Nechodom said Kinney thanked the two women for reporting the child to the police.
“It just goes to show how kids can get around on their own, no matter how young they are,” Nechodom said. “It’s important to know where your kids are at all times.”
GPD shared a photo of the two women on their Facebook page, where Kinney learned who saved the boy before she drove to the scene.
The photo received more than 2,700 likes, 230 shares and more than 200 comments on Facebook. Part of the caption read, “These two ladies are exactly what’s right in our world.”
Nechodom said Alachua County Social Services is investigating the case. He said he believes the issue was caused by a miscommunication between the grandmother and niece.
“A small boy left the house on his own, was walking on the street and still managed to make it home safe; luckily he ran into two guardian angels,” Nechodom said. “If this isn’t a blessing, I don’t know what is.”