PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- A woman has been arrested after allegedly leaving a non-verbal autistic individual with the mental capacity of a four-year-old in a hot car in Phoenix.
According to Phoenix police, the incident happened around 11:50 a.m. near 45th Street and Thomas Road on Saturday. Police said 25-year-old Yasmin Abdulee left the victim inside a locked car, with the engine off, with all the windows rolled up, for about the 40 minutes. The outside temperature at the time was about 93 degrees and the temperature inside the car was estimated to be between 128 degrees and 133 degrees.
Even if it is relatively cool and nice outside in Arizona, leaving somebody, especially a child, in a car can be dangerous, an advocacy group warns.
When police contacted the individual in the car, the victim appeared to have Down syndrome and was sitting in the car with her seat belt on. Officers attempted to tell her to remove her seat belt and unlocked the door, but she was not able able to follow directions and appeared confused. Officers could see sweat on her body so they called firefighters to get her out of the car.
Police said the victim was soaking wet with sweat and was shaking when she was removed from the vehicle. The individual was transported to an area hospital where she was found to be severely dehydrated.
Officers found Abdulee inside a store of the parking lot after this incident. The suspect told police she was a caregiver at a group home for individuals who are unable to care for themselves. She told officers the weather was nice and it was not 100 degrees outside so she left the victim in the car while she did some personal shopping.
Abdulee was booked into jail for reckless vulnerable adult abuse.
“This is a problem that isn’t going away,” said Janette Fennell with KidsandCars.org, national non-profit that works to keep kids safe inside and around vehicles. Fennell says that between 2018 and 2019, one child died in the United States every week in a hot car. She says children are more vulnerable that adults to the heat. “A young child will heat up more quickly," she said. "Their body can heat up two to five times faster than that of an adult.”
Even if it is cool outside, leaving someone in a car can be dangerous. “A lot of people don’t realize that in the high 50s, low 60s, children have actually died in hot cars because the temperature spikes very quickly. It can go up to 40 to 50 degrees higher than the outside temperature in about an hour or so,” Fennell said.
Fennell says a child can die when their temperature rises to 107. Even running into a store for 10 minutes, a car can heat up 20 degrees in that time and just keep going up.
“I think everyone gets comfortable when the weather starts to be really nice, and be able to come outside, and just forget that 90 or 85 is still too warm to leave someone," said Sgt. Mercedes Fortune with the Phoenix Police Department. “It could really cost them their life.”