WINTER GARDEN, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - Authorities in Orange County are searching for a suspect, identified on Friday as 30-year-old David Joseph Swatkowski, accused of stealing a car while a child was inside the vehicle.
Police in Winter Garden said the owner of the stolen car stopped at Cash Stop Pawn, at 13245 W. Colonial Drive, leaving his 4-year-old daughter in the back seat of the car, with the car running. He told police that he watched a man in an orange shirt walk in and out the pawn shop, before climbing into his car and driving away.
"The guy jumped in the car and fled from the parking lot with the victim chasing the car," explained Lt. Scott Allen, with the Winter Garden Police Department.
The car was located a short time later in the entrance to Regal Point Subdivision, and the child was locate unharmed.
"She did say there was a gentleman that got into the car, took her daddy's car, and he didn't realize she was in there, and when he heard her, he looked back and said a bad word, pulled over and ran from the car," Lt. Allen added.
Officers arrived and reunited the dad with his daughter.
"I can tell you that dad's very distraught over this. A lot of times, a lot of parents say it will be ok for a minute [to leave a child in an unattended running car], just shows you what can happen," Allen said.
The suspect remained at large and a massive manhunt was underway just before 7 p.m. A short while later, police released an image of the suspect, recorded by surveillance cameras at the pawn shop.
"I heard a lot of sirens going off," said Mary Horner, a parent who lives and shops in the area. "It's just scary. You just come to bring your child to gymnastics, and there's all this commotion going on. I'm grateful she's ok, because anything could have happened."
Swatkowski has an active warrant for his arrest and police believe he is trying to flee the state with his girlfriend to get to North Carolina.
Police said this is a good reminder to all parents, not to leave their kids in a car.
"When you have somebody out on the streets that is willing to do this type of act, we want to make sure we're doing everything in our power to get him off the streets."
Anyone with information is asked to contact Crimeline at 800-423-TIPS (8477),or the Winter Garden Police Department at 407-656-3636.