On Sunday, Feb. 12, police said the reason a couple was not arrested after leaving their baby in a vehicle for just under an hour was due to claims of it being allowed in their culture; but on Monday the Corpus Christi Police Department clarified, saying they misspoke.
They offered further clarification in a Facebook post Friday, Feb. 17:
In the beginning, officers said the parents told them they were from Saudi Arabia and that it was normal in their culture to leave their children in the car. Police said they were practicing cultural sensitivity in terms of waiting to make an arrest, but on Monday they said that was not the reason.
It all started with a cell phone video that first made its way around Facebook. It showed an officer locating a baby left inside a van at the Starplex movie theater. Officers said they discovered it was an eight-month-old girl and she was left inside for 46 minutes before her 29-year-old father and 17-year-old mother came out with their other four-year-old child. They told police it is normal behavior in Saudi Arabia, which is where they are from.
"We didn't do a good job on your news story the other night. We didn't do a good job of explaining that," CCPD Lt. Chris Hooper said. "We should not have released the offenders alibi to y'all. We shouldn't have done it, but we did."
Police said Monday they are not buying that excuse, and what the parents did is definitely illegal; but police said the officers in the field determined the child was not in immediate danger after speaking to the parents.
Child Protective Services is now involved in the case and police said the parents are facing child abandonment and child endangerment charges, which means they could face up to two years in jail and pay up to a $10,000 fine.
While the department does strive to be understanding of all cultures and backgrounds, they misspoke on this case.
"I teach multiculturalism in the police academy," Hooper said, "but in no way do their values from another country or their cultural idiosyncrasies afford them the right to break laws in our country."
Police said they did let the 29-year-old father know that criminal charges could be coming.
On Friday, police released a statement via Facebook offering further clarification, citing anger and confusion from the public. As for the case, police said a criminal case against the parents is being handled by Child Protective Services in San Antonio in conjunction with detectives from the CCPD.
Full statement from The Corpus Christi Police Department
Lt. J.C. Hooper, Public Information Officer
"A recent local news report was broadcast and then posted on social media. That story has gone viral and is creating much concern and even anger directed toward the Corpus Christi Police Department.
The CCPD spokesman who made the original statements to the television news media was wrong with his assumptions about the reasons for the enforcement actions that occurred in this incident.
He made statements that indicated that patrol officers did not arrest the criminal violators at the time of the crime solely because the suspects claimed to be from another country and they claimed that their behavior was based on the norms of the other country. The spokesperson also indicated that someone who grew up in the United States might have been handled differently if they were involved in the same crime.
The spokesman did not talk to the officers that investigated the crime that night. Those Officers initiated the criminal case against the offenders for child abandonment/endangerment. The spokesman did not read the offense report that was created by those patrol officers prior to speaking to the media.
We thoroughly understand the confusion and anger. Even the appearance that suspects in a crime were given special treatment by enforcers of the law because of their race, culture, or ethnicity is something that totally contradicts our ethics and values here at the Corpus Christi Police Department.
Those responding patrol officers dealt with the totality of all evidence at the scene of the crime that night and made the decision not to arrest the parents at that moment in time. They initiated a criminal case and advised the offenders that a criminal investigation would ensue with the cooperation of Texas Child Protective Services and the Nueces County District Attorney's Office. The actions and response by the patrol officers that night was consistent with our departments practice, policy, and procedures.
This criminal case against the parents is currently being worked by Texas Child Protective Services in San Antonio and Detectives with CCPD. We anticipate that a thorough and complete investigation will require 30 to 45 days and then the case will be presented to the Nueces County District Attorney's Office.
The Officers of the Corpus Christi Police Department strive to operate every day with total fidelity to our oath of office. We exist to defend and protect the Constitution of the United States and impartially enforce all of the laws that we are entrusted to enforce."