MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A 10-year-old girl is found safe one day after police say she took the family’s car and drove it around the Twin Cities.

Over a one-day period, Ava Whitfield was seen on surveillance cameras in Ramsey and Eden Prairie. Police found her at a Walgreens store in Maple Grove at about 10:30 a.m. Wednesday morning.

A relieved Jocelyn Whitfield, the girl’s mother, is still trying to process the past 27 hours.

“A lot of emotions right now, I’m traumatized, I’m overwhelmed and just kind of in shock still,” Whitfield said. “Independent, you know, she is an only child, she is in that pre-teen stage, she is almost 11, all of the evidence showed that she was alone and she was.”

Mom called police when she discovered her car, credit cards and daughter missing from the family home in Fridley Tuesday morning.

Ava Whitfield (credit: Fridley Police)

So how does a 10 year old learn to drive? WCCO spoke with Lt. Nick Knaeble.

“Our investigation did show she had searched on YouTube how to drive, how to learn how to drive a vehicle on public roadways, something along those lines,” Knaeble said.

Mom giving up information about where her credit cards were being used led police to Walmart, and eventually that Maple Grove Walgreens. Ava was reunited with her mother, but never said why she did what she did.

“And she hasn’t talked to the police either, so the next steps are to getting her some professional help obviously, and just continue to support with love,” Whitfield said.

The car does have some nicks, scratches and dings.

“[Inside the car was] just random stuff, snacks, clothes, fingernail polish everywhere,” Whitfield said.

She’s happy no one was hurt, and grateful for the work of every police agency involved.

“I truly want to thank them all,” Whitfield said.

Police say the family will deal with the child, and has offered assistance to help them if they need it.

Reg Chapman