Wichita police have arrested a 31-year-old man accused of stealing a minivan with three young children inside from a south Wichita gas station Wednesday afternoon.
Jason Barajas was arrested and booked into the Sedgwick County Jail early Thursday morning on suspicion of three counts of kidnapping, three counts of aggravated child endangerment, possession of controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia, transporting an open container and an outstanding Sumner County warrant.
Police say Barajas was a passenger in a silver SUV parked at the DC Gas & Grocery store at Broadway and Kinkaid when a 25-year-old mother left her vehicle to pay for gas inside.
“The investigation revealed that the mother had turned off the van and went inside the store, leaving the keys inside the van,” Capt. Brent Allred said at a police briefing Thursday morning.
Her three children, ages 2 years, 18 months and 6 months, were in the van when the thief took control of the vehicle, left the parking lot and headed north on Broadway.
The children were found unharmed in the van, which was abandoned a little over a mile from the convenience store.
“The children were, of course, scared, but unharmed and were reunited with their parents,” Allred said.
He said the thief seemingly dumped the van pretty quickly.
“We believe that he realized that children were in the vehicle and didn’t want anything to do with that part of it, so he abandoned the vehicle,” Allred said.
He said Barajas was arrested on a vehicle stop at Kellogg and Tyler in a second stolen vehicle.
Allred said the driver of the silver SUV was arrested on suspicion of driving on a suspended license and possession of drug paraphernalia. Wesley Coleman, 55, was not arrested in connection with the vehicle theft, he said.
Allred said police will present the case to the district attorney’s office as early as Friday to see what charges will be brought.