LINCOLN, R.I. (WPRI) — An East Providence man accused of critically injuring a toddler in a shopping mall parking lot over the weekend has been charged with first-degree felony assault.

Jack Paiva, 25, faced a judge Tuesday afternoon, during which investigators claimed he struck the 1-year-old’s car seat “three times with significant force” as the two sat inside his truck Sunday.

The toddler’s mother, who police explained is also Paiva’s girlfriend, left the two alone in the Lincoln Mall parking lot as she went inside to buy baby formula.

When she returned a short time later, police said Paiva’s girlfriend noticed her child was breathing strangely.

The toddler was rushed to Hasbro Children’s Hospital, where doctors told the mother her child had suffered serious head injuries that required life-saving brain surgery, according to police.

Police said the doctor’s also explained that the injuries were fresh and likely happened shortly before the toddler was brought to the hospital.

Paiva reportedly admitted to “elbow striking” the child’s car seat because the child “would not calm down and stop crying,” according to police.

However, Paiva’s attorney refuted those claims.

“There is a possibility of false confession syndrome in this case, which is a real thing,” his attorney told the judge.

Paiva was granted $20,000 surety bail and ordered not to have any contact with the child. His attorney said Paiva maintains his innocence and is looking forward to clearing his name.