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Family, community members gather to pray for return of 5-month-old boy abducted near Short North restaurant

Family and community members gathered Wednesday to pray for the safe return of 5-month-old Kason Thomas, who was abducted Monday night outside a restaurant in the Short North.
Matthew Rand
Family and community members gathered Wednesday to pray for the safe return of 5-month-old Kason Thomas, who was abducted Monday night outside a restaurant in the Short North.

Family members, along with Columbus faith and community leaders, gathered Wednesday for a vigil outside the Short North Donato's Pizza where a 5-month-old boy was abducted Monday night.

One by one, they prayed Kason Thomas would be found safe and sound.

According to police, Thomas was abducted outside the restaurant, along with his twin brother, Kyair, who was found safe at the Dayton airport on Tuesday.

"This ain't even really a vigil. A vigil to me is when somebody's dead and gone. That baby's not dead. He's lost and we want him to come home. So this isn't a prayer vigil. This is a prayer victory, a victory that this baby will be home to his parents," said community member Stu Hampton.

Columbus police say the boys were in the back seat of a running car outside the restaurant. While their mother went in the store to pick up a DoorDash order, 24-year-old Nalah Jackson got in the car and drove off, according to police.

Columbus Assistant Police Chief LaShanna Potts said police continue to search for Kason, Jackson and the car, a black, four-door 2010 Honda Accord. "We have not slept. This division has been 24 hours around the clock," Potts said. "This car has to be somewhere, this person has to be somewhere. And she's with a five month old. And so, if people just see anything that looks, you know, out of ordinary, we're asking that you bring us the tips. We want to bring this baby home and that is our focus and we're committed to doing just that."

Potts says CPD has also put resources in place in Dayton.

The department has also alerted law enforcement in neighboring states to be on the lookout.

Kason's grandmother, LaFonda Thomas, also spoke at the vigil. She addressed Jackson directly. "I just want to say I don't know you. You don't know me. We are both mothers. If you look at him and you see anything. See your precious child is longing for his mother. Your children love for you. He is longing for his mother. We ask you, we actually, we beg you. Please, please, please do the right thing. Please do the right thing and just bring my baby home."

Thomas had previously expressed frustration with how it took four hours for police to issue an AMBER Alert for the missing children.

Ohio State Highway Patrol Lt. Nathan Dennis explains the criteria that have to be met for an AMBER Alert to go out are spelled out in the Ohio Revised Code.

"A lot of people think that the AMBER Alert process is something where we can push a button and everything is notified. But the actual process has steps to it that take some time," Dennis said.

First, Dennis says, investigators have to be sure that the child is under 18. There has to be enough credible information that an abduction actually has occurred and that the child's well-being is in jeopardy. And there has to be enough descriptive information about the suspect and the missing child so that a broadcast alert will help.

Lt. Dennis says all of that takes time. "While the notification on cell phones didn't come until 1:37 a.m., the process began at 12:31 a.m. and the local law enforcement was already actively looking for the children in this situation."

Columbus Police Chief Elaine Bryant says the investigation has led them to look heavily at the Dayton area, where Kason's brother was found, but investigators are not ruling anything out. "If anyone has sighted him, even if it's not in Ohio, and you say 'Well that couldn't possibly be him' or 'That couldn't possibly be her' because it's not in the state of Ohio, please do not discard that. Call us. Give us that information," Bryant said.

Until the investigation produces a lead, Kason's family and community members say they will continue to pray for his safe return. "We declare in Jesus' name that on this Christmas, you will not have this baby. He will come home. He will be safe. He will be sound. He will have a smile on his face and be reunited with his brother and with his mother, father and family," said community member Niki Hampton.

Matthew Rand is the Morning Edition host for 89.7 NPR News. Rand served as an interim producer during the pandemic for WOSU’s All Sides daily talk show.