National outrage over a $2,500 fine for public urination by a 3-year-old has ended with an apology.
The incident began last Sunday in the now ironically-named town of Piedmont, Okla., north of Oklahoma City. Jennifer Warden and her daughter, 21-year-old Ashley Warden, were approached by a local police officer who had been perched at the end of their quiet cul-de-sac of homes.
“He came over and said, ‘Give me your ID,’” Jennifer Warden said of the officer, later identified as Officer Ken Qualls. “I just stood there a minute, and then I asked him why did he need my ID and he said, ‘Public urination.’”
Qualls was looking in the direction of Ashley Warden’s 3-year-old son, Dillon, who had pulled his pants down at the end of their home’s driveway to relieve himself. When the officer realized it was, in fact, Ashley’s son, he ordered her inside to get her photo ID.
When Ashley Warden, who was unavailable for comment today due to her work schedule, came back outside, Qualls issued her a $2,500 ticket for her son’s public urination.
“‘It doesn’t matter because it’s public urination and in public view,’” Warden said Qualls responded when the mother and daughter protested that Dillon was just a toddler and that he was on their two-and-a-half acres of private property, where they’ve lived for eight years.
“First, we couldn’t believe that it was a ticket at all and then we couldn’t believe it was that much,” she said.
The next day, Jennifer and Ashley Warden went to the Piedmont Police Department to lodge a complaint about both the ticket and the officer, who had told the family he was sitting in his cruiser in their neighborhood “because it’s a public road,” Warden said.
The Warden’s story was first reported by local news outlets and then picked up by the national press where it sparked outrage online.
“We’ve stayed mainly in the house but we’ve been online reading the thousands of comments,” Warden said. “The outrage is not just the fact that it’s a 3-year-old but many people see it as just an abuse of power, the officer was just writing a ticket because he could instead of handling it in a better way.”
After filing an official complaint against the officer and the ticket, both mother and daughter were interviewed by police and told that officers were monitoring their neighborhood in response to nuisance calls in the area.
By Tuesday, just two days after the incident, the Wardens were visited by police at their home again, but this time with an apology.
“Yesterday the police chief [Piedmont Police Chief Alex Oblein] stopped by and apologized and said that they were dropping the charges,” Warden said today. “We told him we appreciated him coming and for all his help. He didn’t have to come by the house. That was nice of him to do that.”
Neither the chief nor Officer Qualls responded to ABC News’ request for comment. Warden said Oblein told the family his 10-police officer strong department has opened an investigation into how the incident was handled.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen with him [Qualls] and I don’t know if he’s going to retaliate in some way,” Warden said. “I would think not because the story has been so public but I kind of worry that it makes the police department look bad and they know all the vehicles we drive and where we live.”
“But we’ve had such an outpouring of support that it’s probably not necessary to worry about,” she said. “All the other officers that we’ve spoken to or had interactions with have been very nice and courteous.”