A man and a woman face possible child abuse and other charges after two of their children were discovered bound and blindfolded in a parking lot in Lawrence on Wednesday.
The strange case began when a patron of the Walmart store in the northwest part of the city called police to report seeing a child with his arms tied behind him sitting on the ground next to a van.
When police arrived, they found a 5-year-old boy and a 7-year-old girl, both with their arms and feet bound and blindfolded, and an adult male with them, said Sgt. Trent McKinley of the Lawrence Police Department.
When the man, believed to be the children’s father, saw the officers approaching he moved to get into the van. He fought with the officers, who used a Taser to subdue him.
The officers untied the children and called for an ambulance. They also realized three other juveniles were in the van, the windows of which had been obscured by clothing and other items. The other juveniles, a 12-year-old girl, a 13-year-old girl and a 15-year-old boy, locked themselves inside the van. Juvenile officers were able to talk them into coming out of the van after about an hour, McKinley said.
They were in protective custody Wednesday evening.
The woman, believed to be the children’s mother, was arrested without incident inside the store at 550 Congressional Drive.
The man and the woman were arrested for alleged child abuse and child endangerment and the man for resisting arrest. They were in the Douglas County jail Wednesday night, and formal charges are expected Thursday.
Police said the family appeared to have been living in the van, which apparently had mechanical problems Monday night while en route from their home in Northlake, Ill., to a destination in Arizona. The van had no license plates.
It was not clear why the children were tied and blindfolded. Medical crews checked them out and they appeared to be physically OK, McKinley said. Police and child services workers provided food for all the children and diapers for the youngest.
The two officers involved in the struggle with the man were taken to a hospital to be checked out because they came into contact with the man’s blood.
“I’ve been a police officer for 21 years and this is certainly one of the more unusual and more disturbing calls that I’ve been on,” McKinley said. “As we continue the investigation and interviews (with the children) we are hoping to understand the dynamics of the family, what’s occurred the last couple of days and possibly what their intentions were.”