Police in Corpus Christi, Texas, have clarified after initially saying a Saudi couple was not arrested for leaving their baby in a vehicle because of cultural differences.
The Corpus Christi Police Department said it misspoke about a case in which a couple from Saudi Arabia left their baby in their vehicle, unattended, for about an hour.
The couple reportedly told police that in their culture, it is normal to leave children in the car. Police initially said they did not arrest the couple because they were practicing cultural sensitivity. Now, the department says that was not the reason.
The controversy began when a cellphone video showing an officer finding a baby left inside a van outside of a movie theater began to spread on social media. Officers said the baby was an 8-month-old girl. She had been left alone in the van for about 46 minutes before her 29-year-old father and 17-year-old mother returned with their 4-year-old child. The couple told police that leaving a baby alone in a vehicle is normal in Saudi Arabia.
"We didn't do a good job on your news story the other night," CCPD Lt. Chris Hooper told KIII. "We didn't do a good job of explaining that. We should not have released the offenders alibi to y'all. We shouldn't have done it, but we did."
Police have now clarified they are not buying the parents' excuse and that the parents definitively broke the law. Responding officers were able to determine the child was not in immediate danger after they spoke to the parents.
Child Protective Services is now involved in the investigation. The parents are facing charges of child abandonment and child endangerment, for which they could serve up to two years in prison and pay a fine of up to $10,000.
The department said it misspoke on this particular case, but that it generally does try to be understanding of all cultures and backgrounds.
"I teach multiculturalism in the police academy," said Hooper. "But in no way do their values from another country or their cultural idiosyncrasies afford them the right to break laws in our country."
Readers shared their thoughts on the story on the Mad World News Facebook page.
"We the United States of America have Laws as do the Muslim Countries and if we go there we have to obey them or else," one reader commented. "So all Muslims that come to our Country should be held accountable for the Laws of the US."
"Our country, our laws," another user wrote. "If you don't follow them be ready to face the consequences. What is ok in your home land might not be here. You come here for whatever reason, assimilate into our values or leave, end of discussion!"