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Don't Help Tots
June 17, 2010 permalink
When Florida teenager Edwin McFarlane saw a three-year-old girl alone in a store, he did what any caring person would do. He took the girl by the hand and went searching for her mother. He left the store approaching a group of women outside. The mother was not among them, but a few minutes later she went outside herself and was reunited with her daughter. The police response? Edwin was marched off to jail in handcuffs with tv news cameras rolling. Lesson: In today's world, it is dangerous to help a child. In 2002 British bricklayer Clive Peachey made the other choice and decided not to help wandering two-year-old Abby Rae. She died, but Clive avoided legal penalties.
Handling of 'abduction' case involving teen has been absurd
I know that in this paranoid world, you never approach a small child who is by herself, take her by the hand and walk out of a store with her in search of mommy.
But I am not 14 years old.
I am not Edwin.
Last week, Edwin went to the Burlington Coat Factory store on West Colonial Drive with his mother.
He saw a 3-year-old girl without a parent. If he had it to do all over again, if he could see the cops, the handcuffs, the TV cameras and the jail cell all awaiting him, I imagine the last thing he would have done was try to help her.
But he did.
I pieced together what happened from the investigative report, a 911 call, surveillance video, news reports and interviews with the Orange County Sheriff's Office.
Edwin approached the girl and told her he would find her mother. Edwin's mother said she saw the two together, asked Edwin what was going on, and then said she would help.
Then Edwin made his big mistake. He thought the girl's mother might be among a group of women that he saw leaving the store. So off he went.
The video shows him leaving the store, with the girl following behind. Once outside, he took her by the hand.
Edwin's mother then appeared, following after him and the girl.
It turned out the girl's lost mother was in the store. She told investigators that she was returning an item to the shelf when she lost track of her daughter. She naturally became alarmed. Another shopper told her that the girl left the store with a man. Edwin is big enough to pass for a defensive lineman, which probably is part of the problem here.
The video shows the girl's mother rushing out the door.
By that time, Edwin had discovered the girl didn't belong to any of the women he had seen leaving the store. He said he was turning back to return to the store.
There was a convergence of Edwin, his mother, the little girl and her mother. The girl was returned to her mother.
The video then shows mother and daughter going back into the store, followed shortly thereafter by Edwin and his mother.
A store employee then called 911 at the behest of the girl's mother. After the employee tells the dispatcher about the abduction, the dispatcher asks where the perpetrator is.
"He's over in shoes,'' the employee said.
Edwin is quite the kidnapper. He brings his mom along. He hangs out in front of the store until the victim's mother shows up. And then he returns to the store and starts shopping for shoes.
That's one cool customer.
Detectives arrived and investigated. They then slapped the cuffs on Edwin and paraded him out in front of television cameras by now waiting outside.
"We tried to be sensitive to the fact he was 14,'' said Orange County sheriff's spokesman Jeff Williamson. "We made an effort to keep direct questions out of his face.''
Hardly. Two reporters shoved microphones in Edwin's face without any objection from the detectives escorting him. One of the investigators probably could have bitten one of the reporters on the arm.
"Can you tell us why you're in handcuffs?'' a reporter shouted out. "Did you try to kidnap someone?''
Despite his young age, one television station identified Edwin and put the video of his arrest on its website.
Another station reported that deputies were able to arrest him before he was able to get away with the girl.
The Sentinel underplayed the story inside the local section: "A small child is safe and a teenager is in custody after an attempted abduction.''
In the public eye, Edwin was busted and convicted. And don't think his friends, neighbors and classmates don't know.
But look at the evidence.
We have the little girl's mother losing track of her daughter.
We have Edwin's mother not taking the girl from Edwin and turning her over to a store employee.
And we have Edwin in handcuffs.
I'm not sure the problem here is with the 14-year-old.
Interestingly enough, the girl's mother never did press charges. But the Sheriff's Office decided it would, ultimately settling on a charge of false imprisonment.
"He was in custody of the child and had no authority to be so,'' said Capt. Angelo Nieves. "The thing is to make clear we have not charged him with an offense that did not occur.''
Source: Orlando Sentinel