Inmates in Florida stood outside a blue SUV and slipped a straightened wire coat hanger down into the driver-side door.
Wearing their gray-and-white-striped uniforms, they worked on it for several minutes late last week outside a courthouse in New Port Richey, less than 40 miles northwest of Tampa. The men were attempting to break into a couple’s vehicle – to rescue their one-year-old child who had been accidentally locked inside, authorities said.
The child’s mother, Shadow Lantry, posted a video on social media showing the moment Thursday when the inmates, who were on a nearby work crew, pried open the door to free her young daughter.
“Yes! Thank G-d!” Lantry shouted as the door swung open and the horn started to blare. “Thank you guys so much.”
Lantry said in the video that the toddler, Dallas, had started crying, so she asked a friend to take her out to the car.
“He puts her in the car seat and straps her in. He tosses the keys to the front seat,” Lantry explained, adding that when he tried to open the driver’s-side door, he realized that all the doors were locked. “She was only in there maybe five minutes.”
It was about 60 degrees Thursday in New Port Richey, so Pasco County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Amanda Hunter said the deputies did not have an immediate need to break the windows. That said, there was not a great alternative – Hunter explained that the lady had “little funds” to hire a locksmith.
“A group of inmate trustees on a work crew was nearby, repairing medians in front of the Pasco Sheriff’s Administration and the West Pasco Judicial Center buildings, and several of the inmates advised the Inmate Supervisor, Deputy Richard Stanger, that they could get into the vehicle without breaking the window,” Hunter, the spokeswoman, said in a statement to The Washington Post.
Hunter said that since that avoided putting a financial strain on the parents, “the deputies authorized the inmates to attempt to open the vehicle with a metal coat hanger.”
“Ultimately, inmate David Freyn was able to unlock the vehicle, by using the hanger to push the electronic door lock, while other inmates helped pry the door open,” she said. “The inmate work crew was supervised by multiple deputies during the process and were able to get into the vehicle within minutes without damaging the vehicle. The child was also unharmed in the incident.”
Hunter said the inmates involved in the sanctioned break-in had committed “low level crimes.” Freyn, the inmate who was able to get into the vehicle, was arrested in October for a probation violation for grand theft and fraud, according to online booking records. He is serving time in Pasco County.
Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco told ABC affiliate WFTS that it was a unique situation and called for a unique solution.
“There’s only a very small percentage of those criminals out there that want to fight us and want to attack us,” Nocco told the station. “A lot of them, like these individuals, they know they made bad mistakes, bad choices – but they want to do the right thing in life.”