As a staff member at Oklahoma's Department of Human Services, Mary Leaver is accustomed to hearing sad stories about mistreated children. Dealing with painful tales of beaten, abused or abandoned children is part of daily life at DHS.
But Leaver said she can't recall anything like what transpired Friday in Oklahoma City, when a 3-year-old boy was abandoned by a suspected shoplifter at a Wal-Mart store.
Ordinarily, relatives come forward quickly to claim a lost child, Leaver said, but in this case, police and DHS officials were unable to identify the boy for five days.
Late Wednesday afternoon, after intense media coverage, that finally changed. Three of the boy's relatives identified him at Oklahoma City police headquarters, police Master Sgt. Gary Knight said.
The relatives, three women, told The Oklahoman
the boy's name is Bryan Allen. They also said the man who abandoned the boy is not his father.
The women said they were unaware of Bryan's situation until a friend, who saw a media report, called to alert them. Meanwhile, a woman who identified herself as the child's mother contacted DHS on Wednesday too, Leaver said. That woman was being interviewed by a child welfare worker the same night.
Knight said the child remained in DHS custody early Wednesday evening, and also said it was unclear if or when Bryan would be returned to family members.
About 1:20 p.m. Friday, security personnel at the Wal-Mart at 6100 W Reno Ave. approached a man they thought was shoplifting, a police report says. When they confronted the man, he ran, leaving the boy behind.
The man — described by Knight as a bald black man in his late 20s or early 30s, about 6 feet tall and 180 pounds, wearing a blue shirt, dark blue jeans, white shoes and a large necklace or chain — has not been captured or identified.
Wal-Mart security video shows the man calmly pushing Bryan through the store in a shopping cart and entering the lawn and garden section, where he exited the store before being stopped by security personnel.