By JUSTIN JUOZAPAVICIUS
A frantic 911 call placed over the weekend by an Oklahoma man who discovered a 1-month-old baby abandoned on the side of a freeway was released by police Tuesday as officers continued to investigate why the boy was left behind.
Roger Prater, a church youth leader, is heard explaining to an Oklahoma City police dispatcher Saturday that he was driving about a dozen kids back home from an amusement park on Interstate 40 when he saw something out of the corner of his eye that looked like a baby.
Prater, a traveling salesman who typically logs between 300 to 400 miles a day, had his cruise control set at 70 mph when he began pulling over, overshooting the object by a good couple hundred yards. He could hardly believe what he saw.
"Under my breath, I said, ‘I think I just saw a baby,’" said the 46-year-old Prater, the youth group leader at Abba’s House of Worship Center, a 120-member church in Ada, about 84 miles (135 kilometers) southeast of Oklahoma City.
Prater got out of the van and walked toward the object as cars whizzed past. He stood over the car seat. The infant wasn’t moving and his eyes closed.
"As soon as I put my hand on the handle, both his eyes popped open. I jerked him up and handed him to my wife," he said.
When the police dispatcher put Prater through to the highway patrol, a skeptical-sounding operator asked if Prater was sure he’d found an infant. Prater quickly exclaimed, "Yes! I picked it up and put it in my van."
When police arrived, they found a birth certificate, Social Security card and $5,500 in cash stuffed in the baby’s car seat. Prater said the child "looked perfect" and was dressed in a baseball-style onesie. When the boy began whimpering, another motorist who had also stopped to help – and happened to be traveling with a 1-year-old – had a fresh diaper on hand.
Emergency workers estimated the child had been left in the 91-degree heat about 30 minutes, but said he appeared to have been well cared for. Oklahoma City Police Sgt. Gary Knight said officers located the child’s mother through relatives and took her to a hospital for evaluation. He said Tuesday that detectives are still investigating.
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