St. Petersburg police said a woman was having some type of psychotic episode Thursday when she encouraged her 7-year-old son to jump out a second-story window.
The woman, identified as 32-year-old Michelle Vail, also jumped out of the window after her son, Oscar Vail, did. Both suffered minor injuries and were taken to area hospitals.
According to police, Vail will be charged with aggravated child abuse. The incident happened at an apartment building in the 300 block of 7th Avenue North.
Police said they received a call from a distraught woman just after 6:30 a.m., saying her ex-boyfriend was trying to break into her apartment. When police arrived, the woman would not let them in, saying they were not real police officers.
Officers said they could hear a commotion inside, including incoherent screaming and glass breaking. Authorities said the officers could see through a window that the woman was armed with a shotgun and banging it against the door.
Officers said they could hear the woman encouraging her son to "flee."
"They saw her armed with a shotgun, and that obviously raised this to a whole other level," Maj. Michael Kovacsev said.
By the time officers broke down the door to get inside the apartment, they found the woman and her son on the ground below the second-story window. Officers said the child went out the window first, followed by the mother.
Neighbor Haley Warren was outside walking her dog at the time and said when police tried to help, Vail lashed out.
"It was awful just being a bystander,” Warren said. “Like I said, the shrieks were like she was screaming bloody murder."
Police said the boy told officers at the hospital his mother had told him that a serial killer was coming to get them and he needed to jump out the window, which he did.
"The fact is you have a child that's woken up, the mother, for lack of a better term, encourages him to jump out a window. You know, children are sometimes obedient to their parent. When it comes down to it, he did what his mom asked him to do,” said Kovacsev. “So we are thankful he is alive, that he didn't hit ground that was hard and luckily the officers were there."
Oscar was taken to All Children's Hospital with bruises to the back of his hand and to his abdomen. Vail was taken to Bayfront Health St. Petersburg, where officials say she will be arraigned on the aggravated child abuse charge.
Police said Vail's injuries appear to be superficial while her son is being admitted at All Children's Hospital for further observation. There are no indications of serious injury on his part at this time.
DCF has been notified to coordinate custody of the child once he is released from the hospital.
Vail’s former sister-in-law Tammy Zappa told us over the phone the behavior is unusual.
"Extremely loving mom,” Zappa said. “She adores Oscar. I will not believe for one second she would do anything to harm that child. She adored him."
So far, police say they've found no sign of an ex-boyfriend. It's still not clear yet if she was taking any drugs or alcohol at the time of the incident.
Police also say Vail has absolutely no criminal record though they are still checking into her mental health background.
Zappa said she hasn't seen Vail in several years but knows in her heart, the 32-year-old must have been acting out of fear.
"We really believe that she felt threatened,” Zappa said. “That she was trying to protect them."
Detectives said Vail and her son had just relocated to St. Petersburg from Ormond Beach, Florida.
The St. Petersburg Police have had no prior contact with the family before this incident. The Volusia County Sheriff's Office say they've never had any contact with Vail or her son. DCF says that same.
According to their spokesperson, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office CPI Division has opened a child protection investigation as a result of today's incident.