PORT RICHEY (FOX 13) - A Pasco County toddler who was at the center of an Amber Alert is home safe Wednesday night.
Now, 2-year-old Bane Wheeler's father, the man who took him, is sharing his side of the story. We spoke to him as he was on the road back to Tennessee.
At this point, he's not facing any charges. But, for several hours Tuesday, he was the cause of a statewide search. Investigators are currently looking into the circumstances of Bane's taking, to see if anything criminal actually took place.
"It's not what I wanted to do. I just wanted to see my kid. My kid deserves to have both parents in his life," Wheeler said.
At 4:09 Tuesday afternoon, millions of phones sounded the alarm. It was an Amber Alert for 2-year-old Bane Wheeler.
Deputies said, around 10 a.m. Tuesday, Bane's mother Erica was walking him into his Port Richey daycare when the father, Daniel Wheeler snatched the child and took off in a truck.
"He ran in front of her," said Kiri Stough, the Director of Cedarview Learning Center. "Bane was holding the mom's hand and he grabbed him and continued to run with him. She was screaming and crying, 'please call 911 he just kidnapped my baby'."
Investigators said it stemmed from a custody dispute.
"He was not going to cooperate. He was not going to stop," said Capt. Eric Seltzer. "But, we had some dialogue and once he shut down that communication, that's what it really elevated the level of concern."
Daniel Wheeler and Bane's mother Erica are still legally married but he says he hadn't seen his son in a year. Investigators say they had joint custody.
Wheeler drove to Florida from Tennessee in an attempt to get emergency custody. When that was denied on Tuesday, he took extreme measures. Accompanied by two others, investigators say he waited for Bane and his mother to walk toward the daycare. One of the men yelled Erica's name. When she looked, Daniel said he grabbed the child.
"I ran around her, almost a whole 180, grabbed him, took off, and she didn't even notice I had him yet until I was almost at the truck. I yelled, 'go go go'," Daniel Wheeler said. "I jump into the truck with him in my lap. I put him in the floorboard between my legs and we take off."
Wheeler says they drove from Port Richey to Clearwater to Orlando. At times, he spoke with law enforcement.
"He tells me there's going to be an Amber Alert out and I told him, I guess you have to do what you have to do," Wheeler said. "I hung up and literally seconds later, that's when the Amber Alert came on."
Since he's on felony probation for burglary, Wheeler was instructed not to leave the state, or face charges. By late Tuesday evening, deputies caught up with them at a Family Dollar in Orlando.
"At the end, we did recover him safely, unhurt and that is the goal of the Amber Alert," Seltzer said. "I would rather have issued the Amber Alert in error and recover the child safely than have not issued it, and be working a homicide investigation at the end of it."
At this point, Wheeler isn't facing charges relating this case.
"Sometimes, we immediately know we have charges. Early on in the investigation, it looked like we had some charges and then, as information develops, things change," Wheeler said.
Despite the uproar, Wheeler says he's still determined to be with his son.
"I was under the impression that he was unsafe," Wheeler said. "I will continue to fight for my son. I will not come down and snatch him up again. I will go about it the legal way and I will never stop fighting."
Bane is currently in the custody of his mother, Erica. We reached out her to but she declined to comment.
Though there are no charges in Pasco County, investigators say they will be reporting back to Daniel Wheeler's probation officer to let them decide if he violated the terms of his probation.