Nicole Leszczynski says it all started because she forgot to pay for a snack while grocery shopping. Never in her wildest dreams did the pregnant 28-year-old think that the mistake would land her and her husband in jail. Not only that, but her 2-year-old daughter was remanded to state custody.
“It was the most ridiculous chain of events that happened,” she tells the Associated Press while sobbing Monday. “It’s still hard to believe what happened.”
Leszczynski says she and her husband Marcin, 33, and their 2-year-old daughter Zofia had just moved to Hawaii from California two weeks ago. The expectant mother says they took the bus, got lost, and ended up at a Safeway supermarket in Honolulu.
The former Air Force staff sergeant was hungry so she picked up two sandwiches and began to eat one while the family shopped, saving the wrapper to scan later at check-out. As any pregnant woman knows, when you’re hungry, you’ve got to eat or everyone around you will suffer the consequences. Also, I do this all the time at the grocery store with Violet. If she’s freaking out, I’ll open crackers or whatever is handy to keep her quiet while I shop and then have the cashier scan the empty container at check-out. I’ve never had a problem anywhere that I’ve done this although I do understand Leszczynski’s problem wasn’t with eating while shopping but forgetting to pay.
Leszczynski says the family loaded their cart with about $50 worth of groceries and headed to check-out. As I mentioned, they forgot to pay for the sandwiches.
“When the security guard questioned us, I was really embarrassed, I was horrified,” she said. The family was led upstairs. Leszczynski says she figured they’d get a lecture and then they’d pay for the sandwiches.
That’s not what happened.
The store manager wouldn’t let them pay for the sandwiches. He told the couple it was against store policy to receive payment for items that have already left the store so he was calling the cops. After waiting for four hours a police officer arrived and read them their rights. Not only that, but a woman from state Child Welfare Services took their toddler daughter, Zofia, away.
The pregnant mother says she tried to remain calm but when they took her daughter she flipped out.
“I got completely hysterical. I went to the bathroom and I threw up,” she recalled. No kidding. If someone tried to take my kid I’d go buck wild on them. I’d end up being arrested for assault, I can guarantee you that.
Seriously Safeway? DOUBLE-YOU-TEE-EFF?
The store is apparently “looking into the incident.” Susan Houghton, a spokeswoman for the chain says “It was never our intent to separate a mother from her child. That was a very unfortunate consequence to this situation,” Houghton said. “We understand the outrage. We are concerned about how this was handled.”
Apparently it’s procedure to take a child into state custody if both parents are arrested. But this scenario should have never got that far. Someone needs to give that overzealous store manager a talking to. Sure some things are against policy, but get a hold of yourself you power-tripping douche bag.
So the horrified couple was handcuffed, taken to the cop shop, searched, fingerprinted and had mug shots taken. They were released after paying bail. An officer took them back to the store so they could get their groceries and walk home.
As Yahoo reports:
“We basically stared at each other all night. We woke up at the crack of dawn and called (the state child welfare office),” Leszczynski said. While they waited, Leszczynski vented about the experience on babycenter.com and contacted a lawyer for help with being reunited with Zofia. At the lawyer’s suggestion, they took their story to the media. Zofia was returned after an 18-hour separation from her parents.
The couple has been banned from Safeway for a year, which is no great loss, I mean, have you seen the prices at Safeway lately? But they’re charged with fourth-degree theft, a petty misdemeanor, and have to be in court at the end of the month. Houghton, Safeway’s spokeswoman says the company will review the police report and store security footage before deciding whether to press charges.
Um… I’m thinking that’s a big negative. You’ve already done enough, Safeway.
I’ve “accidentally stolen” stuff and I’ve been too damn tired from the whole shopping-with-two-kids ordeal to go back. So, how many of you have realized that you forgot to pay for some stupid thing you handed to your kid while shopping or discovered that you didn’t pay for a can of food that rolled beneath a car seat in the cart? Did you go back?