A Florida mother was arrested Tuesday for leaving her four children in a Winter Haven park while she visited a local food bank.
Ashley Richardson, 28, was charged with four counts of child abuse without bodily harm.
A police officer says her children, ranging in age from six to eight, waved her over Tuesday when the 8-year-old became stuck in a toddler’s swing in Lake Maude Nature Park.
The boy had to be removed by Winter Haven fire rescue personnel.
The officer says the kids were playing near a road and in water along the lakefront. She stayed near the children while waiting for an adult.
The children eventually told the officer they left their home that morning alone and walked to the park without an adult. The officer called for assistance and just then an SUV pulled up, Bay News 9 reports.
The eldest daughter indicated that the driver was their mother.
Richardson was placed under arrest. According to police, she said she was at a food bank and didn’t expect it to take as long as it had.
"Our officer had great concern for the safety of these children," Police Chief Gary Hester said. "She gave ample opportunity for an adult to come forward. For anyone to think it is okay to allow small children to walk almost a half mile alone across a heavily-travelled road, not to mention left in unsafe conditions, is criminal and will not be ignored."
The public has taken to the department’s Facebook page to criticize the arrest.
“What's wrong with that?” wrote Matt Fitez. “An 8 year old and a 7 year old at the park playing without mom walked a half mile to play and a nosy cop had to get involved. I guess the law wants you to escort your kids on there first date also. This is going way to far.”
Hester stands by the seriousness of the case.
"Six, seven and 8-year-old kids are not equipped to be left unattended, I mean period," he said. "I met some pretty mature 6-, 7-, 8-year-olds but you don't leave them unattended. I guess the question we should be asking is this 28-year-old mother, should she be left unattended. Doesn't look like she's mature enough to be a parent. She's being supervised today in the county jail. Hopefully she learns her lesson."
Image credit: Winter Haven Police Department