A couple in Hawaii is considering legal action against a supermarket chain after they were arrested and their child taken away from them when they forgot to pay for sandwiches that cost a mere $5.
Marcin and Nicole Leszczynski were shopping in a Safeway store in Honolulu last week along with their two-year-old daughter when they got hungry and decided to munch on two chicken salad sandwiches. The say they saved the plastic wrappers so they could pay for them at checkout.
However, they forgot all about them. A security guard was watching and stopped them.
"When the security guard questioned us, I was really embarrassed, I was horrified," said Nicole, who is seven and a half months pregnant.
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Instead of being allowed to just apologize and pay for the sandwiches, they were detained.
"I asked to talk to a manager and he said it was against their policy to pay for items that left the store," she said. "The security guard said we were being charged with shoplifting."
Four hours later police arrived and arrested them. Child services took their little girl away.
A spokeswoman for the Honolulu police told The Associated Press that it is standard procedure for child services to take a child if both parents are arrested. Store managers, however, did not know that would happen, said a Safeway spokeswoman.
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The couple was taken to the police station and booked on charges of fourth degree theft, a petty misdemeanor. They were released on $50 bail each.
They went home, but without their daughter.
"We basically stared at each other all night. We woke up at the crack of dawn and called (the state child welfare office)," Marcin said. They got the girl back later in the day after an 18-hour separation.
The couple called a lawyer, who encouraged them to take the story to the media, which has resulted in a bit of bad publicity for Safeway.
"It was never our intent to separate a mother from her child. That was a very unfortunate consequence to this situation," said spokeswoman Susan Houghton. "We understand the outrage. We are concerned about how this was handled."
The couple is considering legal action, while the store said it will review the security tapes before deciding whether to pursue the case.