By Bryan Mims, WRAL reporter, and Jessica Patrick, WRAL.com digital journalist
Clayton, N.C. — A Johnston County man remained jailed Monday after he was accused of stealing an SUV that had two young children inside.
Brian Keith Allen Jr., 22, of Clayton, was being held at the Johnston County jail in lieu of a $150,000 bond. During an initial court appearance Monday, he was ordered to return to court on March 28.
Allen has been charged with two counts of second-degree kidnapping and auto theft, authorities said.
The SUV, which had been left running at a gas pump at the Handee Hugo’s convenience store on Pritchard Road, was stolen Saturday around 11:15 p.m. Two children, ages 7 and 3, were inside the vehicle, which belonged to Gabriel Rand.
The woman is not facing any charges for leaving the children inside the vehicle, authorities said.
Rand said she recalls walking by Allen as she was going into the convenience store.
"He said he wasn't doing so good because he didn't have a place to stay," Rand told WRAL News on Monday while recounting the harrowing story.
She said she had only planned to be inside the store "for two seconds."
"I was literally gonna run in there, hand them the money and come right back out," Rand said. "I just didn't think nothing of it."
In a flash, the man fled from the scene inside Rand's vehicle, where her two children were waiting for their mother to return.
"I'm running through the parking lot screaming, 'my babies (are) in the truck. My babies are in the truck!"
According to Clayton officials, when the children started screaming, the suspect stopped and asked the children if they could call someone they knew to pick them up. The 7-year-old called an uncle and gave an address, provided by the suspect, to him. Officials said the uncle immediately called 911.
Allen told officers he was trying to get to Dunn and had no idea there were children in the SUV.
Clayton police officers and Johnston County Sheriff’s deputies responded to the address along Covered Bridge Road, where Allen lives, and found the children. Allen was arrested and was being held Sunday on a $150,000 secured bond.
The father of the children told WRAL News he also got a call from the suspect after he realized the children were in the vehicle. The suspect begged him "not to call the cops," according to the father.
The father was overjoyed with emotion when he picked up the kids. WRAL witnessed him shaking hands with officers saying, "Thank you, thank you."
Said Rand: "To any parent who may have thought 'I'm gonna run into the store (and) it's gonna take me two seconds.' Take your babies. This was a lesson (I) learned."
Clayton police issued a statement that read: Never leave your children unattended in public, especially inside an unlocked car. This family was in a well-lit gas station in a popular shopping area just outside the Riverwood Athletic Club, but criminals will take advantage of an easy opportunity no matter the location.