Milwaukee, WI — A family has filed a lawsuit this week after the arrest of a mother nearly led to the death of a 4-year-old little girl. Police arrested the girl's mother and seized her van, when they impounded the van, they left the little girl inside—in freezing temperatures, overnight.
On Tuesday, attorneys for the family filed a lawsuit against the city of Milwaukee, the police department, as well as five officers involved in the incident, which occurred in November 2018. To be clear, according to the lawsuit, police were notified about the 4-year-old girl in the back of the van and did nothing.
It was an “unfortunate situation,” Milwaukee city engineer Jeff Polenske said. “Apparently the girl was very upset and crying, something that none of us would like to have happen to any of our children.”
Indeed, it could have been far more "unfortunate" had the girl not survived the frigid temperatures. Luckily, someone working in a nearby tow lot heard the child crying and rescued her the next day.
As FOX 2 reported, the National Weather Service reported temperatures at Mitchell International Airport were around 25 degrees around midnight -- with a wind chill of 14 degrees. The temperature dropped to as low as 19 degrees with a wind chill of five degrees around 7 a.m. When the girl was found, the temperature had edged up to 22 degrees with a wind chill of nine degrees.
According to police, the girl's mother was pulled over around 12:30 a.m. because officers suspected her of driving under the influence. During the stop, the mother was arrested on suspicion of DUI charges. A 10-month-old baby was also in the car and was taken into custody by police, but the 4-year-old was left sleeping in the back seat.
When the mother was arrested, the van was then placed on a flatbed tow truck and taken to a tow lot. After it was brought to the city's lot, the system failed once again as no one inspected the vehicle as they are required to do.
"This is something that none of us would like to have happen to any of our children," said Polenske. "As a father of three, this is something that -- very upsetting to me personally and certainly upsetting to all that were involved with this."
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After her mother was arrested, the girl would spend the next 8 hours in temperatures that were well below freezing and would not be found until 8:30 a.m. when she was heard screaming and crying in the back of the van, begging for her mother.
At the time of the original incident, local media came to the aid of the cops and blamed the mother for the child being left in the van, despite the mother having no way to get her child, as she was arrested.
According to TMJ4, the child was taken to Aurora St. Luke's emergency room and treated for injuries, "including the trauma from waking up alone, cold, and crying for 'mama' for hours," according to the plaintiffs.
Short of a catastrophic emergency in which there is no other option but to drive, there is absolutely no excuse for a mother to get behind the wheel with two young children in the car while drunk. She deserved to be held accountable and she was. The girl's mother, Blair Springfield, was criminally prosecuted for child neglect and driving under the influence and sentenced to 10 months in prison.
That being said, however, the fact that police failed to find the little girl in the backseat of the van is also inexcusable.
TMJ4 reports, that two Milwaukee police officers received suspensions over the incident. James Collins—one of five officers named as defendants in the lawsuit, along with Fabian Garcia, Antonio Dorsey, Emily Markert, and David Paszkiewicz—was suspended for 25 days, according to TMJ4 Milwaukee. Garcia was suspended for 10 days.
"Collins was the same officer involved in the controversial arrest of Sterling Brown, the former Milwaukee Bucks player," notes TMJ4. The city wound up paying $750,000 to Brown, who was tased by police responding to a report that Brown was parked illegally.
The lawsuit will likely be successful as this little girl could've froze to death in the back of that van that night because of the negligence of the system.