A father is demanding answers from police after he was arrested because his four-year-old daughter drew a picture of a handgun in class. (Daily Mail)
Jessie Sansone, 26, arrived to Forest Hills public school in Waterloo, Ontario to pick up his daughter, Neaveh, when he was hauled to a station and strip-searched.
No charges were filed, however, a voluntary search of the family home uncovered no more than a plastic toy gun.
Waterloo Regional Police Inspector Kevin Thaler told TheRecord.com a staff member at the school issued a complaint that ‘a firearm was in a residence and children had access to it.’
According to the website, school officials were concerned not only about the drawing, which depicted a man holding a gun, but of the girl’s remarks when quizzed by a teacher about who the man was.
‘That’s my daddy’s. He uses it to shoot bad guys and monsters,’ she was quoted as saying.
Mr Sansone told the website he was called into the principal’s office when he arrived to pick up Neaveh and her two siblings last Wednesday.
Three officers were present, and he was handcuffed and taken into custody for possession of a firearm.
His wife, Stephanie Squires, who was waiting at home with their 15-month-old baby, was made to come in to the police station while the children were taken in for interviews at Family and Children’s Services, The Record reports.
Mr Sansone while in custody was asked to remove his clothing for a strip search for ‘officer safety’, according to Thaler.
He was given a blanket and told he would appear before a judge the next morning. But after several hours, he was released without charges.
It was not until then he was told about the picture his daughter had drawn, and how it led to his arrest.
After Mr Sansone’s release, he gave police permission to search his home, where all they found, according to Ms Squires, was a clear plastic toy gun.
‘At the point in the investigation when it was determined it was not a real firearm, the individual was released unconditionally,’ Thaler said.
Now the couple is hitting out at police and school officials, claiming the entire situation was blown out of proportion.
Ms Squires told The Record: ‘Nobody was given any explanation. I didn’t know why he was being arrested.
‘He had absolutely no idea what this was even about. I just kept telling them. “You’re making a mistake,”‘ she said.
But child welfare officials and school principal, Steve Zack – who offered Mr Sansone a job as a counselor at the school last year – say their actions were completely justified.
Alison Scott, executive director of Family and Children’s Services, told The Record: ‘From a public safety point of view, any child drawing a picture of guns and saying there’s guns in a home would warrant some further conversation with the parents and child.’
Inspector Thaler added: ‘We had every concern, based on this information, that children were in danger.’
Mr Zack said it was not his choice to involve police, and that staff are required to report incidents that involve the safety of a child to the agency, which is required to report potential crimes to police.
Mr Sansone was convicted of assault and attempted burglary five years ago but says that is behind him.
He does not have a firearms-related charge on record.