A shoplifting suspect who abandoned a 5-year-old boy getting away from loss prevention officers looked like a woman, but may have, in fact, been a man.
Walmart security confronted who they thought was a woman about 3:45 p.m. Thursday, according to the Bartow County Sheriff's Office incident report, attached. They say she had tried to leave the store with numerous items, collectively valued at $600, and fled through the Garden Center exit into a black Mitsubishi Galant.
"(A loss prevention officer) displayed the security footage to me of the encounter with the female and I observed the female running out of the Garden Center, pushing a buggy, with the (loss prevention) staff behind her," reported a BCSO deputy. "I observed (the) juvenile running several yards behind the female, next to (loss prevention) personnel."
It wasn't long until the boy's family was calling Walmart to ask about him, and they added an interesting twist that would make it hard for authorities to identify a suspect.
"During one of their conversations, they were advised that the suspect was in fact a male, and not a female, as originally believed," a deputy wrote.
Family members told police the man was the boy's uncle who "liked to dress in drag," but the boy's mother said she didn't recognize a photo of the man believed to be her brother, according to authorities.
The mom said her neighbor had picked up the boy from pre-k.
"(The woman) did not know how (the) juvenile came to be at Walmart and she did not have a telephone number or address for the individual who had her child," the deputy wrote. "(She) also refused to cooperate with the investigation and would not provide a telephone number for (one of the suspects), stating that she did not know it.
"The fact that (she) claimed not to know basic information about the person who she had entrusted her child to was unsettling, even if the probability of if being a truthful account was infinitesimal."
The boy, who the deputy said was calm, was given food, drink and toys while authorities investigated.
"When I arrived at the (loss prevention office), I observed (the) juvenile to be playing with the toys that he had been provided with. Juvenile seemed to be physically sound and did not seem to have been harmed," the report says. "He made idle conversation with all the adults present and seemed unnaturally accustomed to being around strangers.
"He showed no signs of distress and seemed to be coping with the situation far beyond what would be expected out of a 5-year-old child in a similar situation."
The deputy notified the Bartow County Department of Children and Family Services, which called its Floyd County counterpart to take custody of the boy.
"As (the) juvenile's custody seemed to be in flux, with his proclaimed mother not knowing his whereabouts or how to get into contact with his custodian, and said custodian abandoning him while they committed a felony, it seemed evident that (the) juvenile's health and well being would be in imminent harm were he to return to his current living situation," the deputy wrote.
Authorities were unable positively identify a suspect using security footage because the suspect's gender remained unknown, according to the report.
Tell us what you think in the comments, share your photos and videos, and don’t miss any of the local news you care about—subscribe to Cartersville Patch's newsletter, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.