A 10-year-old Santa Ana, Calif., boy is in protective custody after his mother allegedly shackled chains around his ankles as a way to keep him inside the house and out of trouble, police said.
Irma Navarro, 37, was arrested and faces charges of child abuse after neighbors found her son lying on the ground next to a tree outside the family's apartment with a chain wrapped around his legs.
Two women walking by the apartment complex saw the boy crying on the ground with a chain around his ankles and both of his legs crammed into one leg of a pair of shorts Thursday morning, Santa Ana Police Department spokesman Cpl. Anthony Bertagna told ABCNews.com.
When he told them his mother had shackled his legs, they called the police.
Bertagna said the boy was able to free himself from the apartment and had hopped out to the front courtyard of the complex to get help.
"He was on the ground and could definitely see a lot of fear in him, and he was crying," neighbor Jose Salinas told ABC Los Angeles station KABC-TV. "He had the chains around his ankles. I even noticed his pants when they were on, it looked like one pant leg."
Bertagna said Navarro was concerned her son was getting involved with gangs in the neighborhood. She left the 10-year-old in the apartment with food and a game to play at 8 a.m. Thursday morning, he said.
"She was having a problem with her 10-year-old, who takes off and doesn't come back until 9 or 10 at night. She's afraid he's getting tied up into gangs," he said. "It was a matter of frustration on her part, but it doesn't justify committing a crime. That doesn't justify shackling your kid.
"My understanding is that she bought the chains about a week ago," Bertagna said. "A couple of days before, she tried it around his wrists but it didn't work, so she tried it around his ankles."
Bertagna said Navarro is a single mother of three. Her older child was in school, while her younger child was with a babysitter at the time of the incident, he said.
Navarro, who works as a house cleaner, told police she couldn't afford to get a babysitter for two kids, Bertagna said.
Navarro was booked into custody at the Santa Ana Jail on a charge of willful cruelty to a child. Her bail was set at $100,000, Bertagna said. She is expected to be arraigned in court on Monday.
All three children were taken by child protective services to the Orangewood Children's Home in Orange, Calif., Bertagna said.