WASHINGTON (WASHINGTON POST) - A video of a baby smoking a small cigar outraged social media users on Wednesday (March 21), who alerted North Carolina authorities and helped them identify the 20-year-old mother.
Brianna Ashanti Lofton is charged with two counts of felony child abuse and possession of marijuana, Raleigh police said in a news release. It is unclear where the video originated, when it was posted and whether the substance the child was smoking was marijuana.
A police warrant obtained by the News & Observer, however, accused Lofton of "causing, encouraging and aiding a one-year-old child to smoke a marijuana blunt" on Dec 1, 2017. Police could not be immediately reached for comment.
Police said the child is safe and has been placed with Wake County Child Protective Services. Lofton 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. Dozens of their followers began posting the video and comments about it on the Raleigh Police Department's Facebook page just after 9:30am on Wednesday (9:30 pm Wednesday Singapore time).
Some followers shared screenshots of the video and the link to the mother's Facebook page on the department's page, while others 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."
"Thanks to your willingness to get involved, the child is now safe and the mother is in police custody," police said on Wednesday afternoon.
A version of the video posted by a user who called for the mother's arrest had received 1.5 million page views, according to the Associated Press. The 10-second video showed an adult-off screen holding what appears to be a small cigar in the infant's lips. The child makes a cooing noise and appears to inhale before releasing a puff of smoke.
Lofton could not be reached by The Post for comment.
Facebook user Fendi Sheed, who identified himself to the Associated Press as Rasheed Martin of Rochester, New York, posted the version of the video that was among the most-shared. He said he did not know the mother but was alarmed by the video when he saw a friend repost it.
He told the AP that he wanted the mother to be held accountable, so he shared it to his followers and urged them to help identify the woman and alert police.
Martin continued to post updates on the mother and the child throughout the day. "Pray for That Baby," he wrote early Wednesday afternoon.
Upon hearing that the mother was arrested, he wrote, "That Was My Sole Purpose For Posting It."
Police said they were grateful for the public's help in alerting them to the video. "We welcome and encourage any assistance the public is willing to give us at all times," Lieutenant Jason Hodge said in a statement.