Nicole Gainey was arrested and charged with neglect -- because she let her 7-year-old son walk to the park alone. The Florida mom believes her son is old enough to walk down the street unsupervised. However, officials with the Port St. Lucie Police Department disagree.
On Saturday afternoon, Dominic Gainey asked his mother for permission to walk to the park. Nicole agreed, as her son is mature for his age and carries a cell phone in case of an emergency. Nicole said she did not think she "was doing anything wrong." She was simply "letting him go play" with his friends.
On his way to the park, Dominic was stopped and questioned by an unidentified group of people. As he is not supposed to talk to strangers, Dominic said he "got scared" and "ran off to the park." Shortly after he arrived, he was approached by several police officers.
When questioned by police, Dominic admitted he had walked to the park alone. The officers took the boy home and proceeded to interrogate his mother. Nicole Gainey was later arrested and charged with felony child neglect. She was eventually released on $4000 bond.
In their report, the officers noted that Dominic was not safe as "numerous sex offenders reside in the vicinity." Nicole explained that Sportsman Park is approximately 10 minutes away from her home, and her son has never been harassed or assaulted.
Nicole Gainey is unsure who reported the situation to police, but she suspects the group who tried to stop and question her son. As reported by 10 News, she plans to fight the criminal charge. However, in the meantime, she will not be allowing Dominic to walk to the park alone.
The St. Lucie County State's Attorney's office confirmed that there are no laws preventing children from walking to the park unsupervised. Instead, neglect charges are often filed at the police officer's discretion on "a case-by-case basis."
The arresting officers contend they were simply concerned for Dominic's safety. Nicole said the arresting officers underlined the fact that Sportsman Park is not safe due to pedophiles.
Although the officers believe Dominic was in danger, Nicole said her son is intelligent and quite mature. As reported by WPTV, he is only allowed to go to the park during the day, and he must maintain contact with his mother via cell phone. Nicole said she often calls her son to verify that he is OK.
It is certainly unusual that Nicole Gainey was arrested for allowing her 7-year-old walk to the park. Although the circumstances are unusual, a felony criminal conviction could lead to jail time. Even worse, it could threaten her custody of her son.
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