An Amber Alert has been issued for a mother who took her two-day-old infant from the Alaska Native Medical Center on Tuesday afternoon under circumstances police say are troubling.
"(Police) believe the child to be in danger," said Anchorage Police Department spokesman Lt. Dave Parker.
Police say Monica Vasquez, 30 took her infant son from the Alaska Native Medical Center before being discharged by doctors. Vasquez is described as a 5-foot-6, 200 pound woman with dark hair.
The woman left the hospital with the infant at around 2:25 p.m., police said.
"Hospital staff saw her outside the hospital with the child, but we don't know where she's gone from there," said Parker.
Dozens of police officers searched the hospital and surrounding area Tuesday afternoon. A blue and white Alaska State Trooper helicopter could be seen hovering low over a swampy, wooded area south of Tudor Road.
By 5:30 p.m. the on-the-ground search had been suspended but investigators were working to locate the woman and her child, Parker said.
An Amber Alert, typically used in abduction cases, was issued just after 4 p.m. Parker initially called the case an abduction but later said that was not the case. He said the woman is the child's mother.
Police have not said exactly why they believe the child is in danger or detailed the circumstances of the woman's departure from the hospital.
"We're concerned for her safety as well the safety of the child," he said. "(The mother) was involved with another agency, and they were talking about safety concerns, and that was when she took off."
Taking a baby from a hospital before being discharged would normally not warrant a large police response complete with an infrared-equipped helicopter if the child was not considered endangered, Parker said.
Hospital spokesman Josh Niva initially said that the woman took the infant against doctor's orders, but clarified later Tuesday afternoon that the baby was taken before being discharged but not against medical advice.
"There was no custody order at any point that we are aware of, and a mother has a right to leave a building with her child," Niva said. "We are being cooperative with the authorities on this. The best interests for the child and family are at the top of the list for us."
Niva indicated that the Office of Children's Services was involved in the case.
By CASEY GROVE and MICHELLE THERIAULT BOOTS
Anchorage Daily News