Atlanta police have defended their decision to charge a father with murder after he left his baby son in a hot car for eight hours.
Justin Ross Harris, 33, was held by police after going to work and leaving his son Cooper in his car, where the 22-month-old died of hyperthermia in searing 55C heat.
But police received an angry backlash when they charged Harris with murder and cruelty to children in the second degree.
More than 11,000 people signed a petition on website Change.Org, which reads: ‘This is a horrible accident. The father loved his son immensely.
‘Justin already has to live with a punishment worse than death.’
But police defended their decision, claiming the suspect returned to the car during the day and placed an object in the vehicle.
They also say Harris had been searching online for how long it would take for an animal to die in a hot car.
Cobb County Police Sergeant Dana Pierce told CNN that the circumstances of the case had changed since they were first reported.
‘I’ve been in law enforcement for 34 years,’ he said. ‘What I know about this case shocks my conscience as a police officer, a father and a grandfather.’
Police urged the public to let them finish their investigations before making judgement.
‘I would ask that you not make conclusions based on rumour or suspicions and let our judicial system work as it is designed,’ said police chief John Houser.