When Chuntera Napier's son told her he wanted to get a tattoo in memory of his brother Malik, who was killed in a car accident two years earlier at the age of 12, Napier was touched.
"My son came to me and said, 'Mama, I want to get a tattoo with Malik on it, rest in peace,'" Napier told WSB-TV in Georgia. "It made me feel good to know to know that he wanted his brother on him."
But the problem is that Napier's son, Gaquan, is just 10 years old. And when someone at school noticed the ink on his arm, Napier was arrested for child cruelty and for being party to a crime.
Acworth, Georgia, police Chief Mike Wilkie said that while he sympathized with Napier and was sorry for her family's loss, police had no choice but to arrest her after confirming that the tattoo was against the law. The tattoo artist in Smyrna, Georgia, is being investigated.
"We hope they can find something that can sustain them through that loss, but this is not the way, and it is illegal, and it was something we were bound by the law to investigate and to prosecute," Wilkie said.
Napier, who has an armful of her own tattoos paying tribute to Malik, said that she didn't know it's illegal to allow a child under the age of 18 to get a tattoo. She spent last Tuesday night and Wednesday morning in jail, and is now out on bond.
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"I always thought if a parent gives consent, then it's fine," Napier said. "How can somebody else say it's not OK? He's my child, and I have a right to say what I want for my child."
Gaquan was with Malik when he died in 2010 after being hit by a teenage driver, and the tattoo on his slender upper arm is small and simple: His brother's name, his old jersey number (3), and the letters R.I.P. He told a local TV station that he wanted the tattoo "because it represents my brother."
"It's not like he's asking me if can I get him a SpongeBob," his mom pointed out. "He's asking me for something that's in remembrance of his brother. Well, how do I tell a child no?"