A chilling police alert that a little girl had been abducted and was possibly inside the trunk of a moving car turned out to be a big misunderstanding, Miami-Dade police said.
“The girl is safe and sound,” police said at 6 p.m., hours after a statewide mass Amber Alert was issued and transmitted to many cellphones across South Florida via the new Wireless Emergency System.
Police said the misunderstanding began around noon when a Good Samaritan in traffic at Southwest 57th Avenue and 40th Street saw a girl, 4 to 6 years old, inside the trunk of the car ahead her. She called police with the make and license tag number fearing she has just witnesses proof of a child abduction.
For most of the day, the police searched for the car and little girl. Electronic informational signs on the highways in South Florida flashed the make and tag of the car to motorists.
Police eventually found the father and child shopping at a Wal-Mart in Doral. They were unaware of the search for their car. Police canceled all alerts.
Here’s what the Good Samaritan really saw, police said:
According to Missing Person’s detectives, the father and daughter were driving along Southwest 57th Avenue when the girl opened a flap from the backseat to the trunk to try to reach a water bottle.
Once the vehicle came to a stop at a light, the father climbed out of the car, opened the trunk and got the water bottle for his daughter, who was still reaching into the trunk of the rental car and was visible to the Good Samaritan in the vehicle behind.
The father climbed back in the driver seat and drove off, sparking the unnecessary search that set off thousands of cellphones, igniting interest in the Amber Alert.
Police defended the actions of the Good Samaritan.
“The person who reported what she thought was something suspicious did exactly what she should have done,” said Miami-Dade police spokesman Detective Roy Rutland.