A mom in Honolulu and her husband were taken to jail and their young daughter was taken into custody after neglecting to pay for two chicken salad sandwiches late last week.
“It was the most ridiculous chain of events that happened,” a sobbing Nicole Leszczynski told reporters. “It’s still hard to believe what happened.”
After relocating to downtown Honolulu from California two weeks ago, the couple got lost searching for a grocery store. They finally made it to a Safeway where the the former Air Force staff sergeant and her husband ate sandwiches while they shopped. “We walked a long way to the grocery store and I was feeling faint, dizzy, like I needed to eat something so we decided to pick up some sandwiches and eat them while we were shopping,” Leszczynski told Hawaii’s KHON.
They saved the wrappers and proceeded to the checkout with about $50 worth of other items. The wrappers, however, were missed and the family was confronted by security as they left the store.
“When the security guard questioned us, I was really embarrassed, I was horrified,” she said. They followed the guard upstairs, expecting to pay for the sandwiches and get a warning.
“I asked to talk to a manager and he said it was against their policy to pay for items that left the store,” she said. “The security guard said we were being charged with shoplifting.”
When the police arrived, four hours later, the Leszczynski’s were read their rights and Child Protective Services took 2-year old Zofia away.
“I didn’t want Zofia to be scared because she’s never spent a night away from us. She didn’t have her stuffed animal. She didn’t have her toothbrush.” Leszczynski tried to maintain her composure as young Zofia was escorted away, but the moment her daughter was gone, “I got completely hysterical. I went to the bathroom and I threw up.”
After being booked, the couple was released on $100 bail. They were taken back to Safeway to collect their grocieries and walked home.
Of the night without their daughter, the distraught mom recalled, “We basically stared at each other all night. We woke up at the crack of dawn and called.” Zofia was allowed to come home after 18-hours.
Susan Houghton, a spokeswoman for Safeway, explained, “It was never our intent to separate a mother from her child. That was a very unfortunate consequence to this situation. We understand the outrage. We are concerned about how this was handled.” She went on to say that Safeway will be reviewing video footage and the police report to determine if charges will be upheld.
Later, Safeway released another statement, “It appears we may not have handled this matter in the best possible way and we are taking the situation seriously.”
According to Leszczynski, the ordeal was “so horrifying, it seemed to escalate and no one could say, ‘this is too much.'”