CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - A child endangerment investigation is underway after three children reported missing in Maple Heights were found alone in a van parked at a gas station on Cleveland’s East Side on Monday, according to police.
The Maple Heights Police Department said the 2-, 5- and 9-year-old children were reported missing along with their mother, 27-year-old Tomeeka Pope.
Pope was located by authorities on Monday night.
Cleveland Division of Police Sgt. Jennifer Ciaccia said early details show a man reportedly drove the van carrying the children and parked at the Sunoco gas station on East 131st Street and Harvard Avenue around 8 a.m.
After about an hour and a half, the man walked away from the gas station, according to police.
“We’ve been having some challenges with Tomeeka for about the last few months, but this incident is by far more extreme than anything that we’ve been dealing with," said Tomeeka’s father, Lenard Pope.
“I don’t want to sugar coat anything," Lenard said. "It’s tough. That’s your child and that’s your grand kids and you pray for the best and that’s really all you can do because everything else is in the hands of god and we really can’t control the outcome at this point.”
Cleveland police found the children about an hour after the man walked away and a short time after the “Be On the Lookout” notification was sent to local agencies on Monday, according to Maple Heights police.
“She’s so overprotective about her kids this is really extreme in any direction so that’s what really concerns me more than anything if you know Tomeeka, that’s something that she would never do," her father said. "On her worst days she would never do anything to compromise her kid’s health or safety.”
Police said they do not know who the man is or how what his relationship to the children is.
The children were taken to University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital for evaluation as a precaution, according to police.
They are unharmed, officials said.
Officers are staying at the hospital with the children until the Department of Children and Family Services can determine where the children will be placed, according to Ciaccia.
Anyone with information on this case is urged to call the Maple Heights Detective Bureau at (216) 587-9624 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also call Crime Stoppers of Cuyahoga County at (216) 252-7463.
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