ROCK HILL, SC (WBTV) - A Rock Hill mother is facing charges after police say she left her three children inside a locked vehicle for nearly 30 minutes while she shopped inside a local mall.
According to police, officers were called to the JC Penny parking lot at the Galleria on Dave Lyle Boulevard Sunday afternoon.
Officers found a large crowd gathered around a vehicle. Inside, three young girls ages 8, 2 and 2.
The officer said all three had "red, flushed faces" and appeared to have been crying. The windows were cracked open, but the vehicle was not running. Weather data shows the temperatures were in the mid 70s at the time of the incident.
One girl told police her mother, 25-year-old Tiffany Smith, had gone into the store to return several items. The girl couldn't tell police how long Smith had been gone.
A witness told officers she saw Smith at the door of the store and it appeared Smith had seen officers and ran back inside.
Officers found Smith and she claimed to have been in the store for about five to ten minutes. Mall Security told officers they had video of her walking inside 27 minutes before officers arrived on scene.
"I didn't think it was that long, what's the problem," Smith reportedly asked officers.
When the officer told her that children could not be left in a vehicle alone, she said "I understand that, but can't you just give me a ticket? Think about my kids' wellbeing."
Officers checked the bags Smith was holding and couldn't find a receipt. Smith told officers she was returning them without a receipt but couldn't explain why they hadn't been returned after 27 minutes inside.
Store officials said Smith entered the store with two items, but didn't know how she got the other items in her bag.
Smith's boyfriend arrived at the store to take the children, Smith was arrested and charged with three counts of unlawful conduct towards a child.