OTTAWA – Jessie Sansone and his family are reeling after he was arrested and strip searched by police after his four-year-old daughter drew a picture of a man with a gun in her Kitchener, Ont., kindergarten class.
The 26-year-old father of four said Saturday the sketch was supposed to be him, getting the bad guys and monsters.
The school must have thought differently, as after Nevaeh drew it Wednesday, the school contacted Family and Children’s Services and they called police.
Waterloo Police met Sansone at the school when he tried to pick up his kids he was told he was charged with possession of a firearm. He was then handcuffed and put him in one of the several squad cars waiting outside, he said.
“When I was finally able to see my family, after this ordeal was over, my little girl ran up and gave me a hug me and asked: ‘Daddy, are you mad at me?'” said Sansone, his voice choked. “How could she ever think that I would be mad at her? She knows this has to do with her drawing.”
Sansone, and his wife, Stephanie, have been together since they were teenagers. They have four children, aged 10 years to 15 months, and Stephanie is five-months pregnant with their fifth child.
“Years ago, being really young parents we were given the cold shoulder, like we didn’t know how to raise our children, this feels like that again, because I felt totally alone in that cell,” Sansone said. “We still can’t believe this happened to us.”
Sansone had a scrape with the law five years ago, but has since turned his life around, left Toronto for Kingston, Ont., and has become a certified counsellor.
While Sansone was being strip searched at the police station: told to disrobe, lift his testicles and bend over, his wife was home with their 15-month-old daughter.
“They came to my house, told my wife that I had been charged with possession of firearms, that she would have to come with them, and that Sundae (their infant daughter) would have to go with the social worker,” said Sansone. Stephanie called her Mom who rushed over to take Sundae instead.
“My littlest is still in diapers with a bottle. Thank goodness my mother-in-law lives nearby,” Sansone said.
Once Stephanie got to the police station she had to wait.
“The detective was giving my wife the idea that our children were at the police station with her, just in another room at the station. She was waiting for over an hour, close to two hours, not knowing where the kids were,” Sansone said.
His children had been at Family and Children’s Services, being interviewed by social workers.
“So, my wife was really panicking at that point. So her and the detective drove down to children’s services. They questioned each of my children.”
Now the family is trying their best to explain things to their kids.
“At that interview, I wasn’t there, my wife wasn’t there, but my boys, all they know right now is: ‘Daddy and guns, guns and Daddy’ – my kids knew all the police were at the school because of me. Now I have to explain to them how much of a mistake this is.”
Sansone said police searched his house and found a plastic toy gun that shoots foam darts.
“So many people dealt with this situation in the wrong way,” said Sansone.
“I know the principal really well, how could he judge my character in this way? I drop off and pick the kids up every day, I always say hello, I sign every report card, I go to every parent teacher meeting, I am an active parent at that school.”
The family is trying to decide what to do next, and they are finding a new school for their children to attend.