Two boys, ages 4 and 5, sat for hours over the weekend inside an unlocked minivan in a parking lot in Benson after their father went to a bar around midnight, got drunk and went home with a woman to her apartment, Omaha police said.
The father, Charles R. Bibbs, 28, of Omaha, later told police he had planned to be at the bar for two hours, but he forgot about the boys and spent early Saturday with the woman in the nearby Benson Tower, 5900 Northwest Radial Highway.
In the morning, he told police, he remembered his kids and walked over to the Benson Library at 60th and Binney Streets. He had left them and a dog inside a 2005 Buick Terraza that was running with its lights on.
“It should be noted,” police wrote, “that there was a terrible storm (overnight) with lightning, thunder and 60-80 mph winds and torrential rain,” police wrote in their report. “The boys were all alone in the vehicle in a dark parking lot.”
Leslie Bramer, who lives near the library, had noticed the minivan during the night and saw that it had its lights on. She called police in the morning when she noticed the van still was running.
“One of the officers opened the (driver’s) door and saw a dog lying on the front floor and shut the door right away,” Bramer said Tuesday. “A second officer opened a door and found the two boys sleeping in the back.”
Bramer said she went to her house and got bowls, spoons, milk and Honey Nut Cheerios for the boys, who ate while sitting with her on a bench in front of the library. A police officer went to a store and brought back juice and a bag of doughnuts for the boys, she said.
The dog, Bramer said, appeared to be part pit bull “with a sweet disposition” and sat quietly beside the children. The 5-year-old boy asked Bramer several times if the dog would be all right, she said.
“When the officer first said there were two kids inside that van, I began to cry,” Bramer said. “I can’t believe these two little kids were in that van during that storm and didn’t get out.”
Bibbs was charged Tuesday with two counts of felony child abuse. He was ordered held on $75,000 bail and must pay 10 percent, or $7,500, to be released from jail.
According to Nebraska Department of Corrections records, Bibbs had been released from prison just hours before going to the bar Friday night. He had been sentenced to prison in October after being convicted of fourth-offense drunken driving.
The boys were scared and cold when they were let out of the minivan about 6:25 a.m. to go to the restroom, police reported.
Bibbs walked back to the library parking lot around 7:15 a.m., police said, but stayed about half a block away when he saw the police cars. He later told officers he initially was afraid to walk up. The officers saw him staring at them and asked him his name. He initially wouldn’t give it, but eventually told them who he was. Officers said Bibbs still smelled heavily of alcohol and had urinated in his pants.
Bibbs told officers that his girlfriend, the mother of the boys, had gone to Texas the previous day.
The minivan had no car seats, so officers had to bring car seats to the scene to take the boys to Project Harmony. The dog was picked up by the Nebraska Humane Society.
“The father did come over to me before he was arrested and thanked me for calling 911,” Bramer said.