Stranger Bottle-Feeds Baby in Iowa Hospital, Family 'Very Frightened'

In a bizarre incident, a total stranger walked into an Iowa hospital and bottle-fed a baby that wasn't his, according to authorities.

The man, who has yet to be identified, entered the neo-natal intensive care unit (NICU) at MercyOne medical center in Des Moines—the state capital—one day in December. Des Moines police said the individual slipped by a nurse before feeding the baby and then leaving the hospital.

Police are now trying to find the man, who was captured on surveillance footage during his brief stop at the medical center.

Police said the individual was trespassing on the property but his motive for entering the hospital and feeding the baby remains unclear.

"The first question that comes to our minds is 'why?'" Sgt. Paul Parizek with the Des Moines Police Department said, according to local CBS-affiliated TV station KCCI.

"This is definitely something new to all of us. When we think of child-stealing or predators this is not how they behave, or at least how we're familiar with them behaving. In this case, there was no harm done to the child and on the surface, no intent to commit any other crime beyond what he did to get in there."

Despite the fact that the baby was unharmed, the parents have been emotionally affected by the incident.

"The family is obviously very frightened. This is something that would startle any parent," Parizek said.

Thomas Slater, a Des Moines lawyer who deals with medical malpractice cases, said the hospital has a duty of care to the baby and that any unidentified person claiming to be a parent should not have been allowed into the NICU because it could have potentially exposed the children there to danger.

"I would think there would be some precaution in place to reasonably ensure the person wanting access to the NICU is authorized," Slater told KCCI.

Des Moines police said they wanted to find the man and find out what his motive was.

"We don't know what his true intent was, or what he was planning on doing further down the road," Parizek said. "We need to get him identified so we can at least hear his side of the story and have our investigators better understand what was going on."

Des Moines police said MercyOne—a system of hospitals, clinics, and health care facilities spread across Iowa and Nebraska—is cooperating with their investigation.

In a statement provided to KCCI, a MercyOne spokesperson said:

"MercyOne takes the safety and security of our patients and families very seriously. The incident that took place last month is extremely troubling. We are actively cooperating with the Des Moines Police Department on this ongoing investigation and have conducted an internal investigation into the matter, which prompted several changes to our policies and protocols to expand our security and prevent this from occurring in the future."

In a statement to Newsweek, Parizek said detectives have "run out a few leads" and the department is now requesting the community's assistance with identifying the person involved.

"This is a first for us. [It is] certainly, bizarre, and alarming."

Update 01/31/22, 10:53 a.m. ET: This article was updated to include additional comments from Sgt. Paul Parizek.

A milk bottle
Stock image showing a baby milk bottle. A stranger walked into an Iowa hospital and bottle-fed a baby that wasn’t his. iStock