UPDATE: Suspect arrested in viral incident at Lake Hallie Walmar - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

UPDATE: Suspect arrested in viral incident at Lake Hallie Walmart


Lake Hallie (WQOW) -- Lake Hallie police report that a suspect has been taken into custody, after a mother claimed he entered her van with her children inside.

As News 18 reported on Dec. 20, the Eau Claire woman said she was loading groceries at the Lake Hallie Walmart when the man jumped into the driver's seat of her van. Her children were strapped into their car seats at the time. She said she was able to get him out and he ran in got into another vehicle.

Monday, police say a juvenile was taken into custody in connection to the incident. He told police that he thought it was a friend's car and was trying to pull a prank. The teenager has been referred to the Chippewa County District Attorney's office for charges of disorderly conduct.

(WQOW) - You may have seen a post from a concerned Chippewa Valley mom on your Facebook news feed within the past few day about a scary situation at the Walmart in Lake Hallie.

"I screamed my children are in there, get out of my car." The mother, Julie, who asked not to use her last name in the story, said.

That was her reaction after a complete stranger jumped into her driver's seat after she had gotten groceries and was loading up the trunk of her van on Monday around 7 p.m.

Julie said the man ran past her cart and then proceeded to get into the driver's side of her vehicle, while she had already put her two children in their car-seats while she put the groceries away.

Julie said her maternal instinct kicked in immediately.

"I ran up to the door and I whipped it open and he was still sitting in there," Julie said. "I was still yelling, 'get out of my car' and I actually grabbed him by his sweatshirt and pulled him out of my car and started shoving him to the back of my car. He said, 'Oh my gosh I didn't know it was not my car,' and he ran directly to his car which was across the aisle facing the same direction as mine."

She called the Lake Hallie Police about the incident. 

The police department told News 18 the case is still under investigation. Julie posted her story on Facebook, with hopes to remind people that situations like this can happen to anyone.

She's thankful her keys weren't in the ignition, otherwise, she believes the man could've driven away with her kids. 

The post has nearly gone viral. It has reached nearly 3,000 people. 

Julie's story prompted News 18 to ask officials what community members can do to ensure their safety in parking lots. 

Eau Claire Police Officer, Kyle Roder told News 18 the most important tip is to always know your surroundings. You should always be alert about who is around you and your location, according to Roder.

"We always encourage people to not leave their children in vehicles. Sometimes we see that when people are maybe running into the store or are at a gas station and they think that nothing is going to happen so they leave their kids in the vehicle. That's false, things do happen and you can become a target that way," Roder said.

Police said another tip you should always practice is locking up your car. Officials recommend never leaving a running car unattended or unlocked. 

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