A distraught father chased his car, on foot, onto a Toronto-area highway Sunday afternoon as a thief drove it away with his three-month-old baby inside.

"I saw this car speed right in front," said one witness, who was in the parking lot of a northwest Toronto flea market at about 3:45 p.m. as an unidentified man made off with the four-door 1997 Camry — with the baby in the back seat.

'I couldn't catch him. I tried, but I got hurt.' — Vakil Yosufi

The father ran after it, through the parking lot and onto nearby Highway 27, according to the witness. 

"[The car] made a very wide right turn and went north," the witness told CBC News. 

Police said later the father was struck and injured by the car during the chase. 

The incident triggered an Amber Alert as police forces in the area searched for the child. Following a tip from a member of the public the boy was found safe, with the car, about four hours later near Martin Grove and Dixon Road — some seven kilometres south of where they were taken. 

Vakil Yosufi

Vakil Yosufi told reporters he had left the baby in the car, which was running, in front of Dr. Flea's flea market, at Albion Road and Highway 27. (CBC)

The father later told reporters he had left the baby in the car, which was running with the keys in the ignition, in front of Dr. Flea's Flea Market, at Albion Road and Highway 27. His wife was inside the market at the time. 

"I just left the baby in the car and walked away and somebody came and grabbed it," said Vakil Yosufi. "By the time I tried to get him, it was all gone." 

"I couldn't catch him. I tried, but I got hurt." 

Yosufi thanked police for their efforts and said the thief, who remains at large, seemingly "had a conscience." 

Overwhelming concern

Police were not ruling any motives for the theft in or out. Investigators were trying to determine whether the suspect even knew there was a baby in the back seat or whether he may have known the owner of the stolen car.

The suspect could face charges including failing to provide the necessities of life to a child, according to Det. Rich Petrie of the Toronto Police Service.

"The person who did this parked the vehicle in an out-of-the-way spot — it started to get dark and cold — took the keys, never called police and just left," Petrie said Sunday evening. 

"So we're trying to find this person."

Petrie added Yosufi will not face any charges.

The resulting Amber Alert led to the child's discovery, he said, when an employee of a nearby business spotted the car in a parking lot while on a break. 

Investigators are going over the car and reviewing surveillance video.

Police gave the search maximum publicity, with not only Toronto police but neighbouring forces flooding social media with descriptions of the car and the baby.

Public concern about the child's well-being was overwhelming, said Toronto police Const. Craig Brister, who was handling the social media portion of the police effort.

"The response we had on social media was massive," Brister said. "The number of people that were asking questions, I couldn't keep up."

The man who took the car is described as white, between the ages of 40 and 45, with short blond hair. He is five feet, eleven inches tall, with a medium build, according to police. 

With files from Canadian Press