LAKEWOOD, Colo. - Lakewood police are investigating whether a newborn baby was abandoned by her mother near a Walmart parking lot on Tuesday morning or if the child was legally dropped off under Colorado's Safe Haven Law.
Firefighters told 7NEWS that a middle-aged couple left a baby girl with them at West Metro Fire Station No. 1 around 8:15 a.m.
The couple told firefighters they were at a nearby store when they were approached by a woman who said she didn't want the child and gave it to them. Police confirm that store was the Walmart on West Colfax Avenue and Wadsworth Boulevard.
"This is the first time for any of us at this station to receive a newborn child," said firefighter and paramedic Cody Beinlich.
He said the couple wanted to stay anonymous and didn't give their names. Beinlich said it was obvious the baby had recently been born.
"The child didn’t look like it had been completely cleaned off," said Beinlich. "Still had some amniotic fluid dried on. It just had the appearance of a baby that had just been born very recently."
He said he and other firefighters checked out the baby and transported her to the hospital. She appeared healthy and well-cared for, fire officials said.
Colorado has what's called a "safe haven" law.
According to ColoradoSafeHaven.org, Colorado's law "allows a parent to hand over an infant, up to 72 hours old, to an employee at any fire station or hospital, with absolutely no questions asked. So long as the baby is unharmed, the parent will not be prosecuted for abandonment."
Linda Prudhomme, with Colorado Safe Haven for Newborns, said since the law was passed in 2000, 40 babies have been safely relinquished. She said the most common profile of a woman who abandons her baby is a middle to upper-class college student who's kept her pregnancy a secret.
“We want to get the word out about the Safe Haven law so that the next time a mother has a baby she can’t keep, she knows she can go directly to any fire station or hospital," Prudhomme said. "Happily, this baby is OK, but the mother could have saved precious minutes if she’d taken advantage of the Safe Haven law.”
Lakewood police spokesman Steve Davis said officers are following up on the couple's story.
He said if the couple turns out to be the parents or close relatives of the baby -- and made up the story about the mother in the parking lot -- then no charges will be pursued.
"If a parent handed over the child to total strangers and they took it to a fire station, then the parent could be charged criminally, but that part of the story has not been substantiated," Davis said.
Colorado criminal law states that abandoning a baby is punishable by up to 26 years in prison.
EDITOR'S NOTE: The couple, first reported to be "elderly," were later said to be in their 40s or 50s.
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