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Gambling dad who left kids in car arraigned

Holly Fournier, and Oralandar Brand-Williams

A father who went gambling while his two young children sat locked in a hot car outside was arraigned Tuesday on child abuse charges, according to the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office.

Montez D’Angelo Sistrunk, of Ypsilanti, faces two counts of second-degree child abuse after he allegedly left his 2-year-old and 5-month-old sons in a locked car at the MotorCity Casino on Monday while he gambled inside for about an hour, said Maria Miller, spokeswoman for the prosecutor’s office.

Sistrunk was given a $75,000 bond and his preliminary hearing was set for Sept. 13. He was ordered by Magistrate Millient Sherman to stay away from his children. The prosecutor’s office had earlier said Tuesday’s arraignment would be pushed to Wednesday.

Sistrunk’s boys were freed around 11:25 a.m. from a 2011 Ford Focus parked on the second floor of the casino parking garage on the 2900 block of Grand River, police said.

“An employee of the casino observed the children and alerted a security guard who removed the children from the car,” Miller said.

Responding officers quickly found Sistrunk gambling inside the casino, police said.

But he initially was ticketed and released from the scene.

“He was prematurely released before we actually concluded our investigation to make sure there was any evidence there to arrest,” Detroit Police Sgt. Michael Woody said. “We had to go out to make contact with him, to re-establish contact with him, go out to Ypsilanti and arrest him.”

Woody emphasized that Sistrunk cooperated with authorities and was taken into custody without incident.

“We knew where he was at, he wasn’t trying to evade us or anything,” Woody said.

Sistrunk’s release came after the chaotic rescue and as detectives at the scene tried to quickly reunite the children with their mother, Woody said.

“Certainly we’re always mindful of the process that is involved in investigating crimes such as these,” he said. “This particular incident was born from a need to expedite the investigation to get the kids back to their mother and in doing so the detectives improperly released (the father).”

The children now are in the care of their mother, pending the outcome of a Child Protective Services investigation.

The temperature in Detroit at the time of the rescue hit 77 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.

“The windows weren’t cracked or anything and they were locked in the car,” Officer Jennifer Moreno said. “Typically, if a vehicle is completely closed, even in the shade, in this weather, the inside of the vehicle can reach up to 120 degrees within 30 minutes.”

A casino representative on Monday praised the quick work of facility employees who took action.

“An observant MotorCity Casino employee noticed the children alone inside the car in our covered parking structure and immediately reported it,” casino spokeswoman Jacci Woods said in a statement. “We then promptly contacted DPD and took steps to extricate the children from the car and ensure their safety. The children are fine and the matter is now being handled by law enforcement.”

hfournier@detroitnews.com

(313) 223-4616

@HollyPFournier