Mother says strangers tried kidnapping her 3-year-old from busy Steele Creek store

CHARLOTTE — A Lake Wylie mother said three people worked together to try and kidnap her 3-year-old boy while inside a store at a popular Steele Creek shopping center.

Police are investigating the incident that happened Friday at the Rivergate Shopping Center on South Tryon Street.

Jillian Culp said she was pushing her son around the HomeGoods store in a shopping cart when an elderly woman wearing a hat, sunglasses and face mask asked for her help.

“She said, ‘Help, help,’ and just motioning and saying, ‘Help,’ so I grabbed the wreath and still had my hand on the cart,” Culp said. Then she said, ‘Oh know, two, two.’ So I said, ‘Oh, you want the one behind it?’ So, of course, to grab the second wreath I had to let go of the cart.”

Culp said the woman started asking her how much the items were. That’s when Culp got a funny feeling, realizing her back was turned to her son.

“So, I turned back around and the one male had the blanket over my cart, over the top of my cart and over half of the cart in the back. My son was crouching down in the back, trying to get away from him and I just screamed, ‘No,’ and pushed the blanket off and pushed the wreath back and ran up to the front of the store,” Culp said.

She said the suspect then rushed out of the store, along with another man and an elderly woman. All of them were wearing hats and face masks. CMPD released the below surveillance photos of the suspects. At this point, they don’t know if the suspects intended to take the woman’s purse or her child.

“Right now, in this case, we are not sure if the suspects were targeting the child or were targeting the pocket book that was also in the shopping cart,” CMPD said.

As police investigate, they are also warning parents to learn from the case.

“People need to be aware of their surroundings and that was completely illustrated by this case. A case where our victim was aware of what was going on and then she acted once she realized something was going on,” CMPD said.

Anyone with information on this case is asked to contact CMPD or call Crimestoppers at 704-334-1600.

(WATCH BELOW: CMPD: CMPD: Man charged with rape, kidnapping 1 day after being released from prison for sexual assault)

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