A repo man says he didn't see a child sleeping in the back row of minivan when he repossessed it overnight — setting off a brief abduction scare.
"This tow truck driver just thinks he has a car on the hook," Philadelphia police Chief Inspector Scott Small said. "But what he doesn't realize is that he has a car and a 7-year-old in that vehicle, which makes it a whole different scenario."
The 7-year-old girl's mother works for the Domino's Pizza location at 45th and Chestnut streets in West Philadelphia and had stopped there for about five minutes around 2:30 a.m. Thursday when she saw her van being towed. The pizzeria is open until 3 a.m.
The 26-year-old woman and bystanders screamed as the tow truck drove off with her child and the vehicle, which had tinted windows.
Police immediately put out descriptions of both the minivan and tow truck and found the vehicles at 50th Street and Woodland Avenue, about 1.5 miles away.
"When they went inside the minivan that was being towed they did find a 7-year-old female. She was still asleep under a blanket in the back seat. She was fine," Small said.
Police then reunited the mother with her daughter, Small said.
The repo man, Carmino Giannone of Norristown, said he used GPS to track the vehicle to the mother's work. He had the necessary paperwork to repossess the vehicle.
"Everybody on the block started chasing after me so to avoid a hostile situation I went around the corner," Giannone said.
He said he stopped around the block and checked the car seats and the back seat and didn't see anyone inside.
Giannone, 26, said he eventually talked to an officer and said he thought that the claims of a child being inside were "B.S." The officer then searched the vehicle and found the child in the back, according to the repo man.
Giannone, who claims he has been shot at during past repossessions, called this an "honest mistake." Police seemed to agree.
"It doesn't appear to be an intentional abduction," Small said. "It appears to be just a mistake."
Police said they didn't plan on charging Giannone.
In a statement, the towing company, Giannone Companies, said that Giannone's body camera captured the entire incident and that they would conduct an internal investigation per company policy. Giannone had no intention to put a child in danger, the company said.
Both the driver and mother were taken to Special Victims Unit for questioning but as of Thursday morning no charges were filed.
Police said the little girl should have been strapped into a seat, not laying down in the back. It was unclear why the woman had her daughter with her. The mother didn't speak to the waiting media.
Domino's didn't respond to requests for comment.