Every parent’s nightmare became a reality in the small central B.C. community of Barriere in early January.
“If you need a reminder to never leave your kids in the vehicle, no matter how quick you think you’re gonna be it’s never quick enough,” posted Barriere resident Tierra Hammer on Facebook.
“Today I could have lost mine to a crackhead who needed a vehicle so bad she didn’t care my babies were inside. Please spare me the guilt trips and s***y comments. None of us are perfect. I just wanted to share our story to potentially save the other children I always see left in the car.”
Tierra told the Star/Journal the family was packed in their pickup truck for ice fishing, with the kids all bundled in their snow gear.
A quick stop at the grocery store to buy something for lunch and then off on an adventure. However, things didn’t turn out the way they had planned.
“I never leave my babies, but the one time I do, in just a few seconds they were gone,” said the mom.
Tierra says she had left the children in the vehicle with their dad, Mike, while she ran into the grocery store. As she was about to leave the store Mike called on her cell and asked if she was on her way out, which she was. He then left the truck for a quick dash into the drug store.
“As I was coming out of AG Foods I saw my truck leaving the parking lot with a strange woman!” said Hammer.
“And my babies were inside! This was in just a matter of seconds! I was just dead inside!”
Dad also came out of the drug store, and the alarm was raised. People who had seen the truck leave and which way it had gone rallied to help, and the police were called.
Both parents took off in another vehicle to chase the truck which was going north on Barriere Town Road towards the Legion, where it then turned around and retraced its route going south on Barriere Town Road. At this point Mike blocked the vehicle with his and the woman driver pulled quickly into the Liquor Store parking lot and tried to flee from the scene.
“Mike took her down,” said Tierra. “And then the police arrived! I was so happy to see my babies!”
Tierra says her children are four and six years old and have come through the experience unhurt and well. She tells that after the event her daughter told them that the strange woman had just jumped into the truck as soon as Mike was gone and quickly drove the car out of the parking lot.
“My daughter asked her as she drove out onto the road what was she doing, and at that point I think the woman realized there were kids in the truck. She then said to my daughter ‘don’t worry I’ll take you back.’ She turned around at the Legion and then my husband blocked her at the liquor store.”
Tierra said the police have advised her that the woman was not from B.C., but just passing through. She had no prior offences, but “was really bad into drugs.”
She said the police also told her that the woman is presently under very heavy house arrest until she goes for sentencing which will give her time to find a lawyer. Tierra says the woman has been charged with two counts of kidnapping and one of theft of a vehicle. She is also not allowed within 25 km of Barriere.
“She could get over four years in jail,” said Tierra, “The sentence for kidnapping a child is 18 months for each child and then there is the theft of the car that could also be 18 months.”
Tierra said this was the worst thing to ever happen to her.
“I always lock the door. I just want everyone to be aware that no matter how safe you think it is – it isn’t. People do bad things when they get into drugs.”
Editor’s note: Thank you to the Hammer family for sharing their terrible experience in the hopes that it will be a learning experience for all, and will prevent this from ever happening again to another parent.