York mom cited after leaving children in unlocked car at Rock Hill store

A York mother was cited with cruelty to children after police say she left her three children in an unlocked car outside a Rock Hill grocery store on Monday, although she had the air conditioning running and requested a friend to watch them.

Concerned shoppers called police at about 2:50 p.m. after they noticed three children, two boys, 1 and 3, and a 2-year-old girl, sleeping in the back of a Honda Accord parked in the fire lane of the Food Lion on East Main Street, according to a Rock Hill police report. The car was still running.

When police arrived, the mother, 27, had just come out of the store and explained she went to the store to get medicine for her 1-year-old son, who burned his hand while climbing on a hot stove at their home , the report states. More, she explained a friend was sitting in a car parked behind her car watching the children while she was inside the store. She admitted to leaving the car for at least five minutes.

The air conditioner was on, police reported, but the car was unlocked and running with the sleeping children inside. The person watching the children from another car was about 20 feet away. The mother had placed a wooden block in front of one of her car’s tires to prevent it from rolling away. The mother explained her car had a manual transmission and the emergency brake was broken.

Rock Hill Police Officer Chris Price, a child safety seat expert, arrived on scene and realized the car seat had been unsecured while one of the children sat in it, said Mark Bollinger, police spokesman. The children were also covered in “more dirt than is normal for most children,” the report states, so officers referred the case to the York County office of the Department of Social Services. Police cited the mother for cruelty to children, but DSS will conduct a home visit.

“To her credit,” the mother left the car running with air conditioning, had someone watch the child and took precautions to assure her car would not roll away, which is why she was only cited and not arrested, Bollinger said. Still, authorities recommend parents not leave their children in cars at all.

With recent news coverage of incidents in Lancaster, Georgia and nationwide, citizens have become more vigilant in reporting finding children alone in cars, Bollinger said.

Last week, Logan Cox, 3, was taken to Carolinas Medical Center in critical condition suffering from heat stroke after deputies said he went inside a Mitsubishi Gallant while playing with his dog, but was unable to get out. He died Sunday morning. A father in Georgia has been charged with murder after police say he left his 22-month-old son in a car for seven hours while he went to work. Court documents have shown Justin Ross Harris researched child fatalities related to hot cars and sent sexual messages to several women as his son died.