A young boy, who was pictured in the backseat of a car with a couple who appeared to be passed out from drugs in the front, has found new guardians.
Photos of the boy, 4, taken by an Ohio police department, went viral last week, for showing a couple allegedly overdosed on heroin in their car. The woman, identified as the boy’s grandmother, 50-year-old Rhonda Pasek, according to NBC News, was slumped over in the front with a friend, 47-year-old James Lee Acord.
The images were posted on the Facebook page of the East Liverpool Police Department, along with a report of the incident.
"We are well aware that some may be offended by these images and for that we are truly sorry, but it is time that the non drug using public sees what we are now dealing with on a daily basis," the police department said in a statement on the Facebook page.
"The poison known as heroin has taken a strong grip on many communities not just ours, the difference is we are willing to fight this problem until it's gone and if that means we offend a few people along the way we are prepared to deal with that," the department said.
According to a police report, an officer driving his personal vehicle approached Acord's car after seeing it weaving erratically back and forth before drifting to a stop in the roadway. Acord’s head was allegedly "bobbing back and forth,"and his speech was almost unintelligible. He told the officer he was taking Pasek to the hospital and attempted to drive away before falling unconscious.
Pasek was also unconscious and turning blue, and both had to be revived by several rounds of a drug used to reverse an opiate overdose, according to the report. A folded up piece of paper found between Pasek's legs allegedly contained a small amount of a pink, powdery substance.
The boy was taken into the custody of county child protection services agents, and Acord and Pasek are now facing child endangerment charges.
Columbiana County Court Administrator Dane Walton confirmed to NBC News Tuesday that the boy is going to live with his great-aunt and great-uncle in South Carolina.
According to NBC News, his grandmother was granted custody of the boy just six weeks before she was arrested for the overdose incident.
"The city of East Liverpool humiliated my family and humiliated that little boy," Pasek's sister told NBC News.
"They could have blurred his face and they didn't. And now they're taking him away from my sister. I'm not condoning what Rhonda done, but what they did to her and what they're doing to her grandson is too much," she said.
Brian Allen, the city's director of public services and safety, did not apologize for putting the photo on Facebook and told NBC that the feedback has been "90 percent positive, 10 percent negative.”
"As a public official, I can't blur public records and this photo is a public record," he told NBC News. "It's all or nothing for us. We're a government agency posting it. It's not like we can willy-nilly do what we want."
Reuters contributed to this report