Carlisia Minnis knew something was wrong, but didn’t know there was much of an emergency Wednesday when she walked up to a car stopped near her house in the middle of a White Center street. While someone called the police, she and her friend looked inside.

The driver was gone, but in the back she saw a car seat.

“I yelled: ‘Tell the police it’s an emergency,’ ” Minnis said. “There’s a baby in the car.”

About 20 minutes earlier, a man had stolen the Ford Edge with a 10-month-old baby inside from a convenience-store parking lot in the 1600 block of Southwest Holden Street while the baby’s father had gone into the store to buy a few items, police said. As the vehicle was being driven away, the baby’s father yelled that his daughter was inside. He then called 911.

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Minnis said she started grabbing at the door handles, trying to find a way to get to the baby. When she found an unlocked door, she reached in and lowered the windows, then jumped in and turned off the ignition.

“I was in mom mode,” Minnis said. “The only thing I was thinking about was making sure the baby was safe.”

The police arrived soon after at Southwest 99th Street and Eighth Avenue Southwest and found the baby unharmed and OK, police spokesman Drew Fowler said. She was reunited with her father two minutes after police arrived.

Police arrested the suspect at a White Center restaurant at 4:18 p.m., about an hour after the baby’s father reported the vehicle stolen. The suspect, in his late teens or early 20s, was arrested without incident, Fowler said. He was booked into the King County Jail on suspicion of kidnapping and vehicle theft.

Investigators say they are classifying the incident as a kidnapping because the father had yelled out that his child was in the car, Fowler said. Detectives will review surveillance tape from the convenience store.

“The person who stole this car also knew there was a child inside,” Fowler said.

Fowler advised against leaving children in a car, ever. Though it can be “very difficult and it can be inconvenient, timing wise,” for safety, parents should take their children with them.

But the fault is being assigned to the car thief, Fowler said.

“We aren’t blaming anybody here other than the man who kidnapped this child,” Fowler said.

Paige Cornwell: 206-464-2530 or