A video of an infant smoking a small cigar created outrage among social media users Wednesday, who then alerted North Carolina authorities and helped them identify and arrest the baby’s 20-year-old mother.
The video, which has been taken down, garnered 1.5 million views, according to reports, and was posted by a user who urged the mother’s arrest.
Brianna Ashanti Lofton, 20, was charged with two counts of felony child abuse and possession of marijuana, Raleigh police said on Wednesday.
It was unclear where the video originated from, when it was posted, and whether the substance the child was seen smoking in the clip was marijuana.
However, a police warrant issued earlier obtained by the News & Observer, accused the mother of “causing, encouraging and aiding a one-year-old child to smoke a marijuana blunt” dating back to Dec 1, 2017. The authorities have not commented on this yet.
The 10-second clip posted by a user showed an adult off-screen holding what appeared to be a small cigar in the child’s lips. The original video has been taken down. The infant is then heard making a cooing noise and appeared to inhale before releasing a puff of smoke.
The Raleigh Police Department said Wednesday that the child was safe and has been placed with Wake County Child Protective Services while the mother is being held at the Wake County Detention Center.
“Big thanks to everyone who posted information about the smoking mother and baby,” police told their Facebook followers in a post Wednesday afternoon. “Thanks to your willingness to get involved, the child is now safe and the mother is in custody,” the post added.
A Facebook user named Fendi Sheed, who identified himself to the Associated Press as Rasheed Martin of Rochester, New York, said that he posted the version of the video that was among the most-shared on social media. He said he did not know the mother of the child but was alarmed by the video when he noticed that a friend reposted it.
“Once more and more people found out about this situation, they showed me a screenshot of her actual Facebook page,” Martin said in an online interview, according to Fox 32. “Then I later added it to the post so everyone could know exactly who … did that to the poor little girl.”
He told AP that he wanted the woman responsible to be held accountable, so he shared the clip to his followers and urged them to help identify the woman and thus alert the police.
“We appreciate the public’s help in this matter,” said RPD Lieutenant Jason Hodge. “We welcome and encourage any assistance the public is willing to give us at all times.”
Dozens of followers on the police department’s page had begun sharing the video and comments about it on the Raleigh Police Department’s Facebook page just after 9:30 a.m. EDT on Wednesday.
Some followers even shared screenshots of the video and the link to the woman’s Facebook page on the department’s page, while some of the users posted comments such as “Can you make an arrest on the girl that is making her BABY smoke weed? Something needs to be done about that.”
Police stated that they were grateful for the public’s help in alerting them to the video.