ST. PETERSBURG — A toddler was found safe late Friday night, six hours after a car thief stole the car in which he was strapped.
Tamarcus Daise Jr. was found in the 2000 block of Dartmouth Avenue N, police said, still sitting in the back seat of the red 2010 Dodge Charger in which he was last seen.
The car was stolen about 4:30 p.m., police said, after the boy's father, Tamarcus Daise, left it idling on the street with the 16-month-old in the back seat.
A woman walking her dogs found the car about 10:20 p.m. and called police. The boy was asleep inside and the doors were locked. Officers broke a window to get the boy out.
Paramedics examined him in an ambulance and changed his diaper. Police said he appeared to be okay.
Paramedics took the boy to police headquarters about 11 p.m. to be reunited with his mother.
The car was found about 10 blocks from where it was stolen, though it was parked deep in an alley and wasn't visible from the street. Police said they had searched that alley earlier in the night and the car was not there, leading them to believe it was abandoned there later.
The boy's safe recovery came after a tense day of searching — both by police and family members. The case had a strange twist when Tamarcus Daise and his half brother were arrested.
Tamarcus Daise obstructed the search for his son, police said, while his gun-toting half brother threatened officers while they were doing their jobs.
Daise, 29, was arrested on a charge of obstruction of justice, accused by police of providing "false information" about the child to officers. He has a long criminal record. But police said they don't believe he was involved in the disappearance.
His half brother, Tyreece Rutledge, 27, was arrested on a charge of aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer. Rutledge, who was paralyzed below the waist when he was shot in the back in 2003, was being led to jail just as the baby was arriving at headquarters late Friday night.
"It's good to know he's safe even though I'm going to jail," he said.
Both men were arrested just blocks away from where the child disappeared at 17th Street near First Avenue N. The officers were going door to door when they said the two men pulled up before 6 p.m.
The father had already left the area once before and was upset with police. When he and Rutledge returned, the men were "animated," police said, and demanded to know why the officers were questioning residents instead of looking for the boy.
Sgt. Al White, one of the lead investigators, tried to explain what the officers were doing. That's when police said Rutledge pulled out a handgun and aimed it at the sergeant's face. Then they drove off, only to be later arrested by police.
"You're taking me to jail?" the handcuffed father said as officers put him in the back of a police cruiser. "You're … crazy, man."
Meanwhile, the search for the missing boy stretched later into the night. Agencies across Tampa Bay were alerted to be on the lookout for him and the car. As the sky turned dark the boy's family also took to the streets in search of the vehicle.
"We swept the entire area," said Dave Daniels, 21, the boy's uncle.
The family said they also had searched the alley where the car was found, leading them to believe it was dumped there later in the night. After the boy was found, family members arrived and were crying and thanking Jesus.
Police did not have a suspect in the car theft.
Daise said he left the car parked while he went into the courtyard of the Sierra Palms apartments, just southwest of Tropicana Field. But he also left the car running, police said, while his son was strapped into his car seat in the back.
The father told police he drove there to pick up a friend. He was standing by his friend's door when he looked back to the street and saw someone driving the car north on 17th Street, police said.
The father told police he could not see who was driving.
Police scoured the area. A Tampa Police Department helicopter was sent to help with the search. The child's mother, Dala Daniels, 19, was taken to police headquarters.
Police said the car was a rental with a North Carolina license plate. The father is from the area, police said, and rented the car locally from Thrifty Car Rental.
A city surveillance camera captured the car speeding away on nearby Burlington Avenue, police said, confirming the father's time line.