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Father Takes Child From Children's Hospital During Custody Dispute

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- The little girl taken from Children's Hospital Thursday afternoon during a custody dispute has been reunited with her mother, and her father is now facing charges.

According to Pittsburgh Police, the 7-year-old's father showed up at the Zone 2 police station around 6 p.m. with the girl after investigators spent several hours searching for them and tracking his cell phone in neighborhoods east of the city.

Police say the child's father, 26-year-old Jacqua Barnett of Braddock, was taken into custody at the police station and is facing counts of endangering the welfare of a child and a simple assault charge under the domestic violence statute.

Before taking off with his daughter, police say Barnett physically assaulted the girl's mother.

"He assaulted the mother," said Lt. Matt Lackner, of Pittsburgh Police. "The report we have right now, the mother was choked at the hospital before the child was taken."

Just after 3 p.m., it was reported that the man took the girl from Children's Hospital and drove away.

"Our officers arrived, and we quickly discovered it was a child custody dispute, not a true abduction," said Lt. Lackner.

Investigators released descriptions of the man and child, as well as the vehicle they were believed to be traveling in.

Police were given Barnett's cell phone number and had several conversations with him.

"I insisted he come to the station so we could resolve the situation," said Lt. Lackner.

Police are still trying to determine if any child custody orders were broken. If any were violated, investigators say additional charges will be filed.

"He didn't kidnap her. That's his daughter; he didn't kidnap her," Barnett's mother said. "He got custody."

According to investigators, the man and woman are not married.

Authorities say the child's mother had brought her to the hospital for a scheduled routine medical treatment when the incident happened.

Police took the girl back to the hospital to be checked over, but she was not harmed.

UPDATE: On Friday, police said they are adding a charge of interference of child custody against Barnett. Investigators said the new charge was added after they determined Barnett does not have custody of the girl.

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