Blanchester, Ohio (CBS CLEVELAND) — An Ohio father was arrested and charged with child endangerment after his 8-year-old son skipped out on church to go play in his neighborhood.
Jeffrey Williamson says the arrest was “ridiculous,” and that he watched his son get on the church bus as he does twice-a-week. Williamson says he lost his job after the story ran on the front page of the local paper, and could now face jail for up to six months for what he says was a simple story of a kid being a kid.
The situation began when his 8-year-old son Justin didn’t get on a church bus with his siblings in front of his home in May, WCPO-TV reports. Instead, Justin went to play in the neighborhood and wound up at a Family Dollar store only blocks from his home.
“I could see the church van, they come every Wednesday, I could see the back of the van and I heard the church guy out here,” Williamson told WCPO. “So I’m just assuming that, you know, they all get on the van and leave. Like always, like happens every week. They go Sundays and Wednesdays.
“My kids run in the house in the living room here and tell me, ‘Hey, Dad, the church van’s here. We’re leaving. We’re going on to church,’ “Williamson added.
“I said, ‘OK.'”
Williamson says he didn’t know that Justin didn’t board the bus, and was only informed of it when police brought his son back from the Family Dollar store a half-mile from the family’s home.
“The next thing you know, he comes up to me and he says, ‘You’re under arrest.’ My kids start crying their eyes out wondering why I’m getting arrested,” Williamson said.
Police were called to the Family Dollar and allege that Justin didn’t know where he lived, and the boy was only returned after a customer told them his address.
“That’s definitely totally, totally untrue,” Williamson told WCPO. “He knows his way around this whole neighborhood right here. I told the cop he goes out in the neighborhood and plays every day with all the other kids, there’s a million kids around here that play. I know the parents. The parents know me.”
Williamson says he lost his job at McDonald’s due to local stories on his arrest, and that he has found other work but the experience has had negative lasting effects on his children.
“Every time that we leave in our car or drive down the street or something like that, every time they see a cop in Blanchester, they freak out and say, ‘Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, are they going to arrest you?'” he said.
Blanchester Police Chief Scott Reinbolt is on vacation and wasn’t available to comment on the story when reached by WCPO. Justin was grounded for the incident and his father is due in Clinton County Municipal Court to face child endangerment charges on July 15.