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Dad goes to jail for 4-year-old daughter’s drawing

Published time: February 27, 2012 19:20
Edited time: February 27, 2012 23:20
Jessie Sansone was arrested at his daughter's school after the 4-year-old drew a picture of a gun (Peter Lee / Record staff)

Jessie Sansone was arrested at his daughter's school after the 4-year-old drew a picture of a gun (Peter Lee / Record staff)

It was a kindergarten class piece of art that Jessie Sansone probably won’t want to hang on the refrigerator anytime soon.

After Jesse Sansone’s 4-year-old daughter drew a picture of a gun, cops handcuffed the clueless father and dragged him off to jail. It was there that the dad was stripped of his clothes and searched by the authorities. Sansone was never charged with a crime.

Sansone wasn’t expecting to be greeted by police when he went to pick up his three children from school last week. Faculty there had become concerned, however, after the man’s 4-year-old daughter drew an image last Wednesday that they thought warranted investigation. It was a picture of a man holding a gun, and when teachers asked the girl to explain it, she said it was a depiction of her father.

“He uses it to shoot bad guys and monsters,” teachers say the girl explained.

The father says he doesn’t own a gun. Nor does he kill monsters.

“I’m picking up my kids and then, next thing you know, I’m locked up,” Sansone, 26, tells The Record out of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.

“I was in shock. This is completely insane. My daughter drew a gun on a piece of paper at school,” he says.

After seeing the image in question, the school’s staff became shocked as well. So much so, in fact, that they rang up child welfare officials and local law enforcement and arranged for them to meet the girl’s father at the end of the school day. By that evening, Sansone had been handcuffed, whisked away to jail and forced to remove his clothes so he could be subjected to a strip search.

Authorities took all three of Sansone’s children and dragged them to Family and Children’s Services to be interviewed. His wife, Stephanie Squires, tells The Record that authorities never explained themselves.

“He had absolutely no idea what this was even about. I just kept telling them. ‘You’re making a mistake,’ ” she says.

Despite her pleas, the ordeal went on for hours. Sansone says he was scared and was told he would be charged with possession of a firearm. The problem was, he says, that he doesn’t own a gun. After being held for hours, Sansone was eventually freed from jail and was asked to authorize a search of his home. Though he didn’t have to comply, he says he did so anyway.

Authorities did not recover any weapons in their search (or monsters). His wife says they knew they wouldn’t. The police, she says, acted on an assumption and nothing else.

“The way everything happened was completely unnecessary, especially since we know the school very well. I don’t understand how they came to that conclusion from a four-year-old’s drawing,” she says.

The girl’s father was pretty surprised the school acted that way, as well. Only last year, he says, the principal offered him a job as a counselor there. Sansone is a licensed personal support worker that educates children in classrooms across the region. The principal, Steve Zack, tells The Record that it was the welfare agency’s decision to involve the authorities.

“Police chose to arrest Jessie here. Nobody wants something like this to happen at any time, especially not at school. But that’s out of my hands,” Zack explains.

Sansone and his family are left wondering why the investigation carried out as far as it did, however. When The Record followed up on the story days later, Waterloo Regional Police Inspector Kevin Thaler told them, “We had every concern, based on this information that children were in danger.” The information is now being called into question after Thaler adds that investigators never saw the drawing. Neither has Sansone or the school’s superintendent.

Police add that the strip-search was necessary since it was a firearms-related incident.

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