A man arrested for stealing a car with a child inside has been charged with car theft, but will not face kidnapping charges.
The incident happened Monday morning, right outside the victim’s Pearl City home. Christian Ibarra left his car, a black Lexus, running with his three-year-old son in the backseat as he went in the house.
That’s when the suspect jumped in and drove off.
The prosecutor’s office says the suspect did not know there was a child in the car so there was no intent to kidnap. But Ibarra and a UH law school professor don’t see it that way.
Ibarra said he still can’t believe how fast it happened. A minute after he went inside, Ibarra told KHON2 he saw a man inside the car driving off with three-year-old Hayden inside.
“When he was driving up the street, he held the door open looking back at me and I just kept yelling to him that my son was in the car, my son was in the car,” Ibarra said.
When the suspect got to the intersection, he couldn’t turn left, because the street was contraflowed and he couldn’t keep going straight because construction workers had blocked his path.
Construction worker Hala Kane was two blocks away and saw the Lexus driving toward him.
“There was a man chasing after it and he was yelling, ‘Stop the car! Stop the car!’ So hey, I think this guy is stealing the car,” Kane said.
Co-worker Kendall Peone saw the suspect get out of the car and run back toward the house, apparently in an attempt to get back to his own car. He and a neighbor dragged the suspect and held him down.
“And I said, ‘Did you know there was a kid in the car?’ He said, ‘Yeah bro, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, just let me go,'” Peone said.
“So he said he knew there was a kid in the car?” KHON2 asked.
“Yeah and I was like, ‘No, I can’t let you go,” Peone said.
Erick Butner, 24, was arrested for car theft and kidnapping, but was ultimately only charged with car theft.
The prosecutor’s office says Butner did not know the child was in the car so there was no intent to kidnap.
But according to Ibarra, that’s unlikely. “I don’t think so. My son is really talkative. When my son tells me he asked what (Butner) was doing in the car, you know, he was sitting right behind the driver’s seat,” Ibarra said.
University of Hawaii William S. Richardson School of Law professor Ken Lawson says kidnapping would be hard to prove. But since Butner must have realized that the child was in the car and kept driving, he can be charged with felony unlawful imprisonment.
“At some point, you kind of know, you know what, I just stole a car and there’s a child in back and if you don’t stop now you’re unlawfully imprisoning that child because that child is going against his will,” Lawson said.
Butner remains in custody unable to post $30,000 bail.
As for Ibarra, he says he knows better now and he will never leave the car running with his child inside.