A mother from Austin, Texas, has been charged with felony child endangerment after police say she left her two children in a hot car while she shoplifted from a Wal-Mart in the summer of 2016.
Raquel Perez, 26, drove to a Wal-Mart in south Austin on May 5, 2016, and left her two children, aged 21 months and 3 years old, inside her car, which was around 100 degrees Fahrenheit, reports KVUE. She reportedly locked them in the hot car while she was getting her nails done and shoplifting.
Perez said she left the children in the car because they were sleeping.
Other customers told employees at the Wal-Mart about the children and police were notified. Witnesses called 911 about the situation around 1:55 p.m., according to KXAN.
The children were allegedly left in the car for at least 75 minutes. Police described them as "very hot, sweaty, and dirty."
The 3-year-old was reportedly able to unlock the door so the two children could be removed from the car and taken into the store's security office.
When Perez came out of the store to put the items she had allegedly stolen in the car, she found her children missing and went back into the store to find them.
Edward Alcoser and his co-worker helped the children get out of the car. He said he was "really upset and a bit angry," adding that "you don't do this to kids, you just don't."
"We went closer to the car to see two kids crying up a storm and totally drenched in their own perspiration," said Alcoser. "It just felt wrong and we needed to do something."
"I'm just grateful that we were there and willing to do something about it, not to just let them suffer in the car," said Alcoser. "Who knows how long it would've lasted?"
Surveillance videos show Perez leaving the nail salon around 2:05 p.m., before setting off the Wal-Mart's anti-theft sensors around 2:25 p.m. and putting the items that she had taken into her car before going back into the store to ask where her children were.
"She was obviously not thinking right. Getting her nails done and obviously shoplifting," said Officer Albino Cadenas, according to KXAN.
When an officer contacted Perez a week later to discuss the incident, she reportedly hung up.
"She told the detective that she didn’t want to talk about the incident and there was nothing to talk about and immediately hanged up," Cadenas said.
Police said it took a year to bring charges against Perez because they had to cooperate with Child Protective Services and interview all of the witnesses. The two children are in the custody of relatives, CPS said.