Huntsville mom questions jail release policy after special needs son let go

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – A mother says she’s concerned after her son was arrested, booked, then turned loose and she had no idea.

The mother says her son has Down Syndrome and she was expecting to pick him up from jail on Friday morning.

LaQuitta Tate says this happened because her son was making himself a little bit too at home with the neighbors. She says she didn’t worry because she thought he was in a safe place, only to find her son was not just allowed to walk out, but free to wander the busy parkway alone without her even getting a phone call.

In every neighborhood, the belief is good fences make good neighbors.

“Probably a couple years ago, they decided they didn’t want him to come over,” Tate said.

But no matter how many times she told her special needs son, Tate says Tanner kept wandering over to a neighbor’s home.

“It’s been going on a while, him sneaking out at night and going over there,” Tate said.

This week, it appears that neighbor had had enough.

“I wasn’t aware that he was going to be arrested until they knocked on the door Thursday, woke him up and took him to jail,” Tate said.

Tanner was arrested for trespassing. Tate says after talking with law enforcement, she figured a night in jail would encourage her son to stay home.

“I spoke with the nurse at the jail. She assured me they’d take care of him. He’d be in the medical unit and I didn’t have to worry,” Tate said.

What Tate didn’t know was that just before midnight, Tanner was let go, able to walk out of the jail. Miles from home and no way to call for help, Tanner was walking alone on the parkway until he found a Huntsville police officer.

“He’d stopped someone for a traffic violation on the parkway. And Tanner approached his car and told him he was lost,” Tate said.

Tate says once the officer found out where home was, the officer brought Tanner home, safe and sound, but says the practice is not unheard of.

“That’s a common thing they do with individuals who have an intellectual disability or mental health issues to sign themselves out, even though they may not know what they’re signing,” Tate said.

On Friday, WHNT News 19 spoke to a lieutenant from the Madison County Sheriff’s Office, who says he’s unsure why Tanner was able to leave without a phone call home first. We’ll continue following this story to get answers as to why situations like this are allowed to happen.

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