UPDATE: Police have said this incident was "a misunderstanding." See our updated article here.
Two men in Southern California tried to buy a 2-year-old boy from his mother for $100 in a suspected human trafficking attempt at a Covina market, police said Thursday.
The 34-year-old woman and her toddler were at Baja Ranch Market in the 400 block of South Citrus Street around 6:30 p.m. Wednesday when a man walked up to them while they were checking out.
U.S. & World
News from around the country and around the globe
He paid both mother and son a number of compliments, and said both were very beautiful, the woman told police. He then asked her if she would consider selling the little boy. When she told the man no, he continued complimenting her son.
"The gentleman asked to purchase her kid for a hundred bucks," Covina Police Sgt. Gregg Peterson said. "She was somewhat surprised by that, declined the invitation, obviously."
The woman said she waited in the store’s lobby for a few minutes so the man would leave. When she thought the coast was clear, she walked to her car, but the man pulled up in a brown or champagne-colored Honda Pilot with a second man who had been in the store with him in the passenger seat.
"'Oh look, it’s you! It’s both of you. You’re so beautiful,'" the woman recalled the man saying to her, Covina police said.
The woman said she told the men to leave her alone, but the first man got out of the SUV and removed a $100 from his pocket and offered it to her, again asking to buy her son.
"He was saying, 'Let me buy the child, let me buy the child,'" Peterson said.
The woman said she froze, believing her son was going to be kidnapped.
The suspects both encouraged her to keep the money, and dropped it in her shopping cart before leaving southbound on Citrus Avenue.
"That would freak me out, to offer to buy my kid," shopper Erica Jiminez said. "I don't even know who does that."
"I've had people stare at (my daughter) and watch her," another shopper said. "I've learned when you have children, there's a technique you learn as a parent. You have to watch who's watching your kids."
The first man is described as about 45 years old, standing 5 feet, 8 inches tall and weighing about 200 pounds. He was wearing blue jeans and a brown button-down shirt at the time of the incident.
The passenger in the car was described as a man in his 50s, about 6 feet tall and weighing about 215 pounds. He was wearing tan slacks and a long-sleeved white shirt.
Police have released surveillance images from the market in an attempt to identify the two men.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Covina Police Department Detective Bureau at 626-384-5612. Anonymous tips can be made by calling Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477.