A 4-year-old Ohio boy pictured in police photos in the back seat of a car while his grandmother and her boyfriend were slumped over from a drug overdose has went viral on social media. The incident took place in Ohio's East Liverpool city.
The pictures were taken following a Sept. 7 traffic stop. An officer spotted Acord driving erratically along St. Clair Avenue. When officers approached the vehicle, Pasek was already unconscious and Acord passed out a short time later.
Officers photographed the couple and the vehicle for evidence, Safety Director Brian Allen said, and released the photos after the man’s guilty pleas ended his criminal case.
The adults were unconscious by the time an ambulance crew arrived and likely would have died if they hadn’t received an opiate antidote, he said.
Police said they found evidence the adults had used a mixture of heroin and fentanyl.
Columbiana County Juvenile Court administrator Dane Walton says the grandmother, Rhonda Pasek, was granted custody of the boy six weeks ago. Walton says the judge's report shows that at the time there was "no evidence brought forward" of any drug issues with Pasek.
Pasek is being held on a child endangerment charge. Her boyfriend, James Acord, pleaded guilty to child endangerment and operating a vehicle while intoxicated.
Acord was convicted on child endangering charges and driving while impaired. He was immediately sentenced to nearly one year in jail.
Pasek, who was in the passenger seat of the vehicle, pleaded not guilty to child endangering charges and is scheduled to appear in court next week.
NBC News reports the boy will be going to live with his great aunt and great uncle in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
The photos were taken Wednesday in East Liverpool, a city of about 11,000 residents along the Ohio River, and were posted to the police department’s Facebook page Thursday.
Allen said city officials initially struggled with the decision to make the photos public but he wouldn’t hesitate to do it again.
“Sometimes the truth is a gruesome thing,” Allen said. “And that picture is the truth of what my officers deal with every single day.”
Posting the photos could be seen as a type of punishment but also as a public relations tool to try to stop people from becoming addicted in the first place, said Wes Oliver, director of the Criminal Justice Program at Duquesne University School of Law in Pittsburgh. He likened it to successful anti-smoking campaigns in recent years using photos showing the graphic physical effects of tobacco use.