CLEARWATER — On Tuesday when Clearwater police Officer Brian Tejera got to the spot where Palm Bluff Street dead-ends at Clearwater Harbor, he saw the woman beside the water.
She was wearing a T-shirt and nothing else, pacing back and forth and mumbling. She was holding her 3-month-old son, who was crying.
"She said there were lizards and demons crawling around," Tejera said Wednesday as he recalled the incident. "She was definitely hallucinating."
The woman was 39-year-old Lydia Chako. A few minutes before, at about 1:45 p.m., Chako's landlord had called 911. Chako had flooded her apartment at 1209 N Osceola Ave., the landlord said. Chako told the landlord there were lizards, snakes and demons in there. Then she walked toward the water with the baby. The landlord feared the infant was in danger.
Tejera, 28, said that when he arrived, Chako looked like she was getting ready to either throw her child into Clearwater Harbor, where the water was several feet deep, or jump in. She said something about the baby being dirty, or both of them being dirty, Tejera recalled, and that they needed to be cleaned.
Tejera said he slowly walked toward Chako and told her everything was going to be okay. She didn't put up a fight when he took the baby from her. Another officer came in and handcuffed Chako.
"I had every intention that I was going to have to jump in the water after them. I'm just glad it didn't come to that," Tejera said.
Neither the baby nor Chako was injured, police said.
Chako was charged with child abuse and was in Pinellas County's inmate health care facility Wednesday afternoon, according to the Sheriff's Office. She has never been convicted of a crime in the state, according to Florida Department of Law Enforcement records.
Tejera said he was involved in a 2009 case where Chako was held under the Baker Act, a law which allows people to be hospitalized for a mental evaluation.
Chako's child is in the custody of the state Department of Children and Families, police said.
Her apartment was still a mess Wednesday afternoon. Clothes were strewn across an uncovered mattress in the bedroom. Diapers were spread across the floor. The toilet was stuffed with socks, diapers and several rolls of toilet paper.
Jesse Wells sat on a couch in the living room, across from a stuffed Kermit the Frog. Wells, 84, is the husband of landlord Deborah Wells, who called 911 Tuesday. Chako had only lived there a few months, he said. She was pregnant when she moved in.
"That baby would be dead if my wife hadn't called," Wells said.
Behind Wells, a decorative wooden plaque sat on a shelf. The plaque was decorated with the image of a rose, and a message, written in cursive: "I love you Mom."
Times researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report. Will Hobson can be reached at (727) 445-4167 or [email protected]