The shocking incident was reported at roughly 8:20 p.m. on Wednesday after a homeowner in Spring, Texas, found two-year-old Royal Simmons standing on her front doorstep by himself. Footage captured by the home's surveillance cameras shows a woman running to the residence while carrying the child by the arm, before ringing the doorbell a few times and knocking on the door. The woman then leaves the child standing in front of the door and runs back to her vehicle and drives away. The entire interaction lasts only 23 seconds.
Simmons looks on as the woman leaves him behind.
— Breaking911 (@Breaking911) October 18, 2018
After responding officers canvassed the area and found no neighbors that knew of the child, officials with Texas' Child Protective Services were called to take custody of Simmons.
It wasn't until Thursday morning, after reporters came onto the scene, that Simmons' dad realized that it was his son at the center of the media circus unfolding in his neighborhood.
Lt. Scott Spencer of the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office revealed Thursday during a news conference that Simmons' dad, identified by local outlets as Willy Simmons, had received a text message from the boy's mother saying that the toddler would be dropped off at his house Wednesday afternoon.
However, Simmons was never dropped off as planned because his mom had been admitted to the hospital. The father ultimately left the house for the evening, assuming that the mother had changed her mind about the drop-off.
The woman seen in the surveillance footage has been identified by law enforcement. Though her name has not been released, Spencer did indicate that she was a friend of Simmons' family. The woman faces a child abandonment charge, a third-degree felony in the Lone Star State.
"I was gut-wrenched. It was very alarming and very disturbing, and my heart was hurting for that child," Spencer told reporters, recalling how he felt upon initially reviewing the surveillance recording.
"Had she waited just several more seconds, the homeowner would have opened the door and maybe would've started a conversation, dialogue to direct her to the correct house to drop the child off."
The boy's father lived next door to the home where the child was dropped off, Houston news station KTRK reported. CPS officials have since reunited Simmons with his family.
An investigation into the matter is still ongoing.