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Arrest made in viral video of kids left in van

Woman Faces Possible Charges, Bakersfield, July 22, 2021
Posted at 4:27 PM, Jul 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-23 11:55:33-04

UPDATE: According to the Kern County Sheriff's Office, an arrest has been made in this viral video incident. KCSO says, Melissa Medel was arrested at a hotel off Brundage Lane in Bakersfield around 8:35 pm Thursday. She was found with the two kids, who are now with Child Protective Services.

KCSO says she was arrested for felony child endangerment and a few other outstanding misdemeanor warrants.

23ABC is learning more about a video that shows a mother is allegedly leaving her toddler and newborn baby alone in an unlocked van while she went inside a grocery store. 23ABC spoke with a witness and the sheriff's office about what charges she may be facing.

One woman says she decided to record the situation after she witnessed a mother hit her toddler and leave him in the car while she was inside a FoodMaxx store in East Bakersfield.

In Penal Code 273d PC, California law defines child abuse, or corporal injury on a child, as imposing physical injury or cruel punishment on a minor under the age of 18. The offense may be filed as a misdemeanor or a felony and is punishable by up to 6 years in jail or prison.

Examples of child abuse include:

  • slapping a child hard enough to leave a mark
  • punching a teenage boy for staying out too late
  • hitting a child with a belt harder than is reasonable in order to discipline her

California’s mandatory reporting laws require that certain professions – such as teachers, child care workers, and social service providers – report suspected instances of child abuse and neglect.
Shouse California Law Group

The video has over 14,000 views after witness Myra Law posted it to Facebook. She says a little boy came into the FoodMaxx on Niles Street looking for his mom and once he found the mother, Law says she witnessed the woman hitting her child and then putting him back in the car while she continued to shop. She says the van was running with the air conditioning on.

“I witnessed her take him to the van where she was parked in the parking lot and she got him by the hair and started pulling him really crazy and the little boy had no shirt on so she started whacking him with her hand and threw him in the van and she went right back to the store,” explained Law.

23ABC has decided not to identify the woman because at this time she has not been arrested or charged. However, Kern County Sheriff's Office investigators say they are looking for her.

“Deputies responded. However, by the time deputies responded the female who had been driving the car along with the kids had left the area,” said Lt. Swanson of the Kern County Sheriff's Office.

Lt. Swanson says while the incident is still under investigation the woman could face charges.

“There’s a few different charges we could look at. There’s a child endangerment charge along with there’s an infraction for the vehicle code section along with a battery charge that we potentially have that occurred there at the location.”

Lt. Swanson says the video will help in the investigation but there are other factors not caught on camera.

"There are things related to the incident that weren't captured in that video so we are also going off witness statements and other surveillance video that was in the area."
Law hopes that change will come for the children’s sake.

“I just hope they take this seriously before something really tragic happens to those kids. So that was my main reason to post it. So that it can get all this attention and they can finally step up and do something for those kids because somebody has to be the voice for those children.”

Lt. Swanson also adds they receive child abuse cases nearly every day but not all of them are of children left alone in vehicles.

And you may be wondering how much of an issue is child abuse or neglect in Kern County? 23ABC took a deeper look at the annual report from the Kern County Network for Children and found some new data.

According to the Network's report: