Off-duty Westminster officer helps arrest homeless man who stole car with three children inside


Westminster police arrested a homeless man suspected of stealing an SUV Friday with three children in the car, crashing the vehicle, then leading police on a pursuit.

A man at about noon on April 10 parked his Lexus SUV behind the 7-11 at Magnolia Street and Bolsa Avenue and ran in a nearby store to buy a water, police said.

He left his three children — a 7-year-old girl and two boys ages 11 and 5 — in the car with the keys in the ignition, police said.

The suspect, a local transient, jumped in the SUV and drove away with the children in the car then crashed into another vehicle.

The suspect let the kids out near Magnolia Street and Hazard Avenue.

An off-duty officer saw the traffic collision and the suspect flee. The officer followed the vehicle in his personal car and called 911.

Westminster police responded and attempted to pull the suspect over, but he would not stop, police said.

The man finally pulled over near Magnolia and Edinger avenues.

Thien Nguyen, 46, was arrested and charged with several felonies including kidnapping, evasion and child endangerment. Police said they continue to investigate.

Police said this situation underscores why parents should never leave children in any vehicle, even if just for a short amount of time.

“At this point, we believe the target of the suspect was the victim’s vehicle, not the children,” said Cmdr. Cameron Knauerhaze. “We urge the public to never leave young children in a vehicle unattended.

“Not only can this be criminal and negligent, but unusual circumstances like this may occur, which could have ended up tragic.”

Anyone with more information can call Westminster Police at 714-898-3315 or Orange County Crime Stoppers at 1-855-TIP-OCCS, callers can remain anonymous.