A Canadian father was arrested and strip-searched Wednesday after his 4-year-old daughter drew a picture of a gun in her kindergarten class.
Ontario dad Jesse Sansone told the Toronto Sun his little girl’s drawing was supposed to be him, getting monsters and bad guys. Her teacher apparently thought differently, and the school contacted child protective services. When Sansone arrived to pick his daughter up, three police officers were waiting to take him into custody.
“I’m picking up my kids and then, next thing you know, I’m locked up,” he told the Waterloo Region Record. “I was in shock. This is completely insane.”
Police questioned Sansone’s daughter and his other children, who gave a “detailed description” of a firearm supposedly located in the house and easily accessible to them, Inspector Kevin Thaler of the Waterloo Regional Police said, according to the Calgary Herald.
“The kids were scared,” Thaler. “It is a 4-year-old that we’re taking the information from, but the fact is that this disclosure was very descriptive and very alarming to the officers investigating this.”
He said the arrest was made “because it was the end of the school day” and officers felt they needed to “secure and locate the firearm.”
When Sansone got to the school, he was told only that he was being arrested for possession of a firearm and given no additional details. At the police station, he was forced to remove his clothes for a full strip search. While he sat in a jail cell, police even brought his pregnant wife to the station for more questioning.
The “gun” his children told police about? A toy pistol that shoots foam darts, which police discovered during a search of his house.
“The child had every belief it was real,” Thaler said. “The indication from the kids was that it was dad’s [gun].”
Sansone was finally released after four hours. He said he’s furious and that his name has been slandered.
“So many people dealt with this situation in the wrong way,” he told the Sun. “I know the principal really well, how could he judge my character in this way? I drop off and pick the kids up every day, I always say hello, I sign every report card, I go to every parent teacher meeting, I am an active parent at that school.”
But the school, police and child welfare officials all stand by their actions, according to 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,” said Alison Scott, executive director of Family and Children’s Services.
The Sansone family is looking for a new school for their children to attend.
“The first thing my daughter said when I saw her was, ‘Daddy are you mad at me?’” Sansone said. “That sums it up to me.”