Stuffed Animal Blown Up by Bomb Squad

Greetings, Readers, from the land of the free, home of the — YIKES! A stuffed animal!

Perhaps you’ve heard this story: Yesterday, a stuffed-animal about 2 feet high standing near a school caused imaginations to go wild in Orlando (where you’d never, ever expect to see a large, fake animal). It was a pony-shaped thing and the bomb squad was summoned.

Next thing you know, the school goes into “modified lockdown,” the neighborhood gets cordoned off, a robot is sent it to examine the stuffed animal.

In sci-fi, the robots are always smart. But here in the real world, this one apparently gave the thumbs down signal and — BOOM! I’ts pony-in-the-sky time. Voila:

Feel free to come up with your own headline for this video. Or this country. — Lenore

Yay! Charges Dropped vs. Helpful Kid Arrested for “Abducting” 3 y.o.

Hey Readers — As we head into a weekend celebrating life and liberty (at least on this side of the pond), let’s celebrate the liberty that has come to Edwin McFarlane, the young man charged with abducting the lost 3-year-old he was trying to help. The State Attorney’s Office announced it won’t prosecute.

Here’s our original post on the topic. And here’s the happy ending — complete with mentor overload for the young man, who now has a whole bunch of adults hoping to help steer him to a successful life. We hope the same thing for him! Happy weekend to all! — Lenore

Outrage of the Week: 14 y.o. Arrested for “Abduction” Of Toddler He Helped

Readers — Once again, I’m just at a loss for words. Here’s the story of a 14-year-old boy named Edwin who was shopping with his mom at a Burlington Coat Factory in Florida. When he saw a 3-year-old  girl looking lost he took her around to try to find her mom. His own mom saw him go looking and said she would try to help, too.

Then Edwin saw a group of women leaving the store and thought the girl’s mom might be among them. So he went out of the store and finally took the little girl’s hand. When he realized the mom wasn’t among this group, he returned to the store. He met up with his mom and the girl’s mom. He handed the little girl over and proceeded to shop for shoes with his own mom.

And then he was arrested for “attempted abduction.”  The press arrived as he was lead out of the store in handcuffs. This wonderful column by Mike Thomas in the Orlando Sentinel says it best:

Edwin is quite the kidnapper. He brings his mom along. He hangs out in front of the store until the victim’s mother shows up. And then he returns to the store and starts shopping for shoes.

That’s one cool customer.

Detectives arrived and investigated. They then slapped the cuffs on Edwin and paraded him out in front of television cameras by now waiting outside.

“We tried to be sensitive to the fact he was 14,” said Orange County sheriff’s spokesman Jeff Williamson. “We made an effort to keep direct questions out of his face.”

Hardly. Two reporters shoved microphones in Edwin’s face without any objection from the detectives escorting him. One of the investigators probably could have bitten one of the reporters on the arm.

“Can you tell us why you’re in handcuffs?” a reporter shouted out. “Did you try to kidnap someone?”

Despite his young age, one television station identified Edwin and put the video of his arrest on its website…. But look at the evidence.

We have the little girl’s mother losing track of her daughter.

We have Edwin’s mother not taking the girl from Edwin and turning her over to a store employee.

And we have Edwin in handcuffs.

I’m not sure the problem here is with the 14-year-old.

Interestingly enough, the girl’s mother never did press charges. But the Sheriff’s Office decided it would, ultimately settling on a charge of false imprisonment.

“He was in custody of the child and had no authority to be so,” said Capt. Angelo Nieves. “The thing is to make clear we have not charged him with an offense that did not occur.”


Let’s recall, meantime, what happens when it becomes the norm to suspect any Good Samaritan, of any age, under any circumstances, of the most disgusting of motives. Recall the story of the man in England who also saw a lost toddler, this one on the side of the road he was driving by. He thought of stopping the car, scooping her up and driving her around till he could find where she’d wandered off from. But then he thought, “What will it look like if I’ve got a little girl who’s not mine in my car?” He knew exactly what it would look like.  So he didn’t pick her up.

And then she drowned.

I hate that story (but can’t find it on Google — can you, readers? Please provide a link!) And I hate the one above it. When we react to our fellow human beings with the very worst, most vile assumptions first, we are less and less apt to reach out and help each other.  That’s not a safer world.  It’s the opposite. — Lenore

P.S. A reader named Fred did find a link to the English tragedy.

Moral of story: Avoid forlorn children!

A Terribly Sad Day

Even as our hearts  sink with sadness, they  go out to the family of Somer Renee Thompson, the 7-year-old whose body was found in a landfill. It is impossible to think of her story without feeling rage and anguish.

It’s also a hard time to talk about the fact that her case, as searing as it is, is also exceedingly rare. That’s why it is national and, I hear, international news. That doesn’t make it any easier for her family. And it doesn’t negate the immediate urge to hold our children close. It just reminds us that we are lucky that such stories are uncommon enough to make them shocking.

As David Finkelhor, head of the Crimes Against Children Research Center, said in an interview about this case: “I am of the opinion that these kinds of crimes have declined.”

It doesn’t feel like it at the moment. It can’t. And, knowing TV, it won’t, not for a long time. But I’m very  glad the country’s leading expert on such things sees such travesties becoming ever less common, and I look forward to the day they are less common still. — Lenore

Who’s Crazy?

Dear Readers: There will be a quiz at the end of this post — a letter just in from a reader. (I actually read it on the subway!)

Dear Free-Range Kids: It’s 70 degrees here in sunny Florida, so I opened all my windows and blinds. My 8-year-old  daughter and 6-year-old son came home from school and wanted to play in the front yard on the tree swing. OF COURSE I obliged because it was so beautiful out, how could I say no?!? My 18-month-old cried because brother and sissy were home and she wanted to play. So I let the kids push her on the swing. I was inside watching out the front window while I folded laundry in the living room.

A friend of a neighbor came over to tell me how dangerous that was and compared me to that “crazy subway mom.” I told her that I took that as a compliment. This is a sleepy beach community so I told her since she didn’t live on “this side of the bridge” (we live on an island) she just didn’t get it. Needless to say she was not happy to hear that. I gave her this website and I hope she see’s this, then maybe she’ll get it.

Thanks for all the insights and stories. I love seeing how “normal” I am 🙂

So, readers, here’s the quiz:  WHO’S CRAZY? A “subway mom”-type who looks at three siblings sharing a blissful afternoon, and smiles? Or a lady  who looks at the same three siblings and sees a  gothic horror story unfolding?A horror she feels absolutely compelled to warn the mom about?

They call us crazy but we’re not!  — Lenore