GPD officer speaks about rescuing toddler from hot car

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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - The police officer who rescued a little boy found locked inside a hot car, while his mother shopped at a Greenville beauty store, is speaking out about what happened, saying how grateful he is that he got to the boy in time.

The boy's mother is charged with misdemeanor child abuse.

Bystanders are being praised by police for their role in helping save the boy, who was locked in a car parked in the lot in front of Zoe's Kitchen and Ulta Beauty.

You can see the relief on the faces of bystanders in cellphone video that captured the moment Officer Elliot Gruhn pulls the toddler from the car where police say he'd been trapped for about an hour.

"He was crying, visibly upset, he appeared to be in distress," Gruhn says.

The officer immediately rushed the boy into Zoe's Kitchen where he tried to cool him off before he was taken to the hospital.

The bystanders called 9-1-1 around 2 p.m. Thursday after they heard the boy crying.

"If they didn't call or if somebody didn't take action, we don't really know what could have happened, the child was in the car for almost an hour and it was 116 degrees so, it could've ended very badly and we're very happy that it didn't and that the child, as far as we know, is okay," the officer says.

An infrared temperature gun read 115.8 degrees inside the car. It was about 88 degrees outside at the time.

"I'm just happy that I was a short distance away and was able to respond," he says. "It's very dangerous and it's about to be summertime, so we just want to educate people that you should not leave a child in a car."

The boy's mother, Ashley Garris, 21, is charged with misdemeanor child abuse and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

Police say she was shopping inside Ulta Beauty, and came outside around 2:15 p.m. after Officer Gruhn had freed the child.

At Greenville's Town Common Friday, some parents gave Garris the benefit of the doubt.

"I mean, somebody could possibly be naive," says Jacqueline DeTurk, a grandmother to an 11-year-old.

While others find it hard to comprehend.

"We can forget to put on socks, we could forget to put our wallets in our purses, but to forget to get your child out of the car when you're getting out of the car, I don't think I would do that," says Tiffinee Smith who has a six-year-old daughter.

Police say the boy was taken to the hospital to be checked out, but he his expected to be okay.

WITN spoke to Garris Friday morning and she declined an on-camera interview, but says the boy is staying nearby with his father and the father's family.

The Department of Social Services was contacted about the case and police say Garris is not allowed to have any contact with the boy.

She has a June 14th court date.

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In the middle of an early season heat wave, local first responders were able to get to a toddler just in time, after they say he had been left in a car for an hour while his mother was shopping at a beauty store.

Greenville police say just before 2:00 p.m. Thursday, they were called for a two-year-old trapped at the parking lot for Zoe's Kitchen and Ulta Beauty on Evans Street.

They say bystanders were already trying to free the boy, when Officer Elliot Gruhn was able to fit his hand through a cracked window to unlock the car.

The officer then rushed the toddler into Zoe's Kitchen to cool him down before he was taken to Vidant Medical Center as a precaution. GPD says he's expected to be okay.

At the time of the rescue, temperatures in the car were found to be between 104-116 degrees.

The temperature outside the car was 88 degrees around that time and Chief Meteorologist Matt Engelbrecht says the clear sky and dark interior of the car were a few factors in increasing the car's temperature.

About half an hour after police had arrived on scene and after the boy had been taken to the hospital, Ashley Garris returned to the car where she was arrested. Investigators say she had been shopping at Ulta for about an hour.

The 21-year-old Garris is charged with misdemeanor child abuse and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

DSS Child Protective service was contacted about the case and Garris is not allowed to have any contact with the boy.

The woman posted bond and has a June 14th court date.