A Fairfax County teacher who allegedly went shopping and left his 7-year-old son inside a hot car has been charged with reckless disregard of a juvenile, police said yesterday.
Shortly after 5 p.m. Wednesday, a passerby noticed the boy sleeping inside the car of Richard G. Jones, 43, in the parking lot of the Costco store at 4725 West Ox Rd. near the Fair Oaks area. The doors of Jones's 1998 Mercury Sable were locked and the windows rolled up, police said. The high temperature at Dulles International Airport on Wednesday was recorded as 83 degrees at 3:30 p.m.
The passerby entered the store and notified a Costco employee, who with an off-duty firefighter returned to the car and knocked on the windows for several minutes until the boy woke up, Fairfax County police said. The boy then led the two men to his father, who was inside the store with another of his children.
"He wasn't happy, needless to say," said police spokeswoman Katie Hughes. "When you are putting a child at risk, namely in this case the heat, you'll be charged. You'd be charged if you left your dog in the car like that."
Police later determined that the heat in the car was high enough to endanger the boy, and Jones was arrested Thursday. He has since been released on a personal bond, his attorney said yesterday.
The attorney, John Keats, called the arrest "ridiculous" and said his client never put his son in any danger.
"You are not talking about an infant here," Keats said. "The child is certainly capable of rolling down a window if he was uncomfortable. If it was a baby, it would be one thing."
Keats said Jones had gone into the store for only a minute or two and was not planning on leaving his son in the car for a long period of time. "All of this happened very quickly," Keats said.
School officials said Jones is a physical education teacher and coach at Robinson Secondary School. He started as an instructional assistant with the school system in 1982 and became a teacher two years later. In 1992, he began teaching at Robinson, where he is the assistant wrestling coach.
Fairfax County schools spokeswoman Kitty Porterfield said the school system would reserve judgment until the case is resolved. The school year at Robinson has ended for the summer.