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Port St. Lucie father wants answers after 2-year-old son wanders away from day care

Jeff Johnson said police called Monday to tell him his son was found at a gas station across the street from day care
Posted at 4:51 PM, Aug 29, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-29 17:56:35-04

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — A Port St. Lucie father wants answers after he said his two-year-old son wandered out of a local day care, crossed a side street and was found near a gas station, without the day care ever knowing.

Jeff Johnson said his son, Kobe Johnson, was attending Lighthouse City Academy and Preschool for about a week before getting a call from police at about noon Monday, who told him his son wandered off from the day care and was found at the Circle K gas station across the street.

Lighthouse City Academy currently has about 35 students and six staff members.

"It's terrifying," Jeff Johnson said. "I've gone through a lot of things, seen a lot of scary stuff, but nothing like this. I'm not an emotional person, but I'm not even going to stop myself from crying."

According to a Port St. Lucie police report, officers were dispatched to northwest Airoso Boulevard Monday at about noon for a report of a young child walking the area by himself.

Jeff Johnson discusses the scary moments of having his son wander away from a Port St. Lucie day care.
Jeff Johnson discusses the scary moments of having his son wander away from a Port St. Lucie day care.

One of the people who reported it, Alicia Hayden, told WPTV that she was driving by and saw the young boy walking along Airoso Boulevard. She said she saw him cross a side street, and right before he was about to cross Airoso Boulevard, she pulled over and asked him where his parents were.

Hayden said the little boy ran to her and told her he didn't know. Hayden said she took the boy to the Circle K gas station, got him some snacks and called police, waiting with Kobe until officers arrived.

Hayden said she has kids of her own, and couldn't imagine any of them walking alone by themselves.

"I thank God for the woman who found him, for her being a good person and doing what was right," Johnson said. "That's something that I never want to go through again, nor do I want any other parent to experience what my wife and I went through yesterday."

According to the police report, the officer who responded went to Lighthouse City Academy to ask staff if they were missing a child. The officer said staff there told him no, they weren't missing anyone.

A good Samaritan found the wandering boy and took him to this Circle K gas station.
A good Samaritan found the wandering boy and took him to this Circle K gas station.

The officer said it wasn't until he asked them to do a headcount to make sure that they realized a child matching Kobe's description was gone.

"And I am still awaiting a call from the day care," Johnson said, who said the day care never notified him.

Officers said they interviewed the day care's director, who told them she was outside watching other children on the playground when the incident happened, but said there were several other staff members inside the building along with other kids.

Police also reported that all of the church's doors were push-style with push bars, and that some of the doors' sensors didn't notify staff when they were opened.

The building also didn't have cameras inside or outside the building.

WPTV spoke to a representative for Lighthouse City Academy on the phone who told WPTV that the day care's doors don't lock due to fire safety protocols, but said the church is horrified the incident happened. They said staff are working closely with police to increase safety and security to ensure it never happens again.

A representative also said the day care has been in the community a long time and has never had an incident like this before.

Johnson said the day care's response is a step in the right direction but said considering the seriousness of the situation, hoped the day care would see his point of view.

"I feel one time is one time too many. We got lucky this time. A good person found my son and did what was right. Who's to say the next person would have?" Johnson said. "I understand we're all human. We make mistakes. We get busy. We get overwhelmed. We have bad days. I get that. But when you're accountable for someone's life, you don't get to make an excuse."

Port St Lucie police say they have since filed a report with the Department of Children and Families. WPTV contacted DCF and a representative said they'd get back to us shortly.