North Carolina mother arrested for repeatedly slapping crying toddler and threatening to hit him 'again and again'
DURHAM, NORTH CAROLINA: A disturbing video made rounds on social media this week. In the clip, a North Carolina mother slapped her young son while he is strapped into a car seat sobbing. Concerned netizens who came across the live stream early on Monday morning flooded the Person County Department of Social Services with calls reporting the incident, officials said.
The clip reportedly shows the toddler biting on his fist while seated in the back of a car. A woman's hand is then seen hitting his arm and slapping him in the face, causing the child to burst into tears and slump to the side with his head buried in his hands. "I ain't done, come back," the woman reportedly tells the boy in the 18-second clip, before hitting him a couple more times.
Another video reportedly showed the same woman telling her son, "'I really hate I gotta keep doing you like this 'cause your face gets red, but your daddy don't care. I'm about to hit you again, and again, and again."
Jermaine Wallace, a community leader, was one of the first to raise the alarm. The married father-of-five told WRAL-TV that he recognized the woman in the video as Ariel Lunsford, a mother-of-three from Roxboro. "To watch this helpless child cry and scream and be abused for something he had no control over...he was put in a situation that he didn’t ask for," he told the outlet. "As a parent, the situation that played out on social media was very disturbing and heartbreaking. Watching a baby scream in pain at the hands of his mother."
Wallace noticed that a number of people had criticized his decision to report Lunsford's conduct to the authorities. He responded to the outrage in a follow-up post on Facebook.
"Let’s make this clear for the people in the back. I did NOT ask to be awakened at 1:30 am in the morning on Monday, nor did I ask for the video to be sent to me," he wrote. "As a parent and community leader, it was my duty to act fast based off the nature and severity of the video."
The mother was arrested in Durham on Monday on outstanding warrants for an unrelated probation violation and failure to appear in court charges, Person County Sheriff Dewey Jones said in a statement. Lunsford's criminal record reportedly includes charges of assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury; possession of paraphernalia; second-degree trespass; false report to law enforcement, and no operator's license, the agency said.
Lunsford was in the Person County jail as of Wednesday with bond set at $276,800, a spokesperson for the sheriff's office confirmed to the Daily Mail. That said, a separate investigation into allegations of child abuse is being conducted by the Durham Police Department. Lunsford's three young sons are now safe in the custody of family members, Wallace said.
In the past few months, authorities have noticed a considerable spike in the number of child abuse cases. "Things have been very busy," DSS Director Carlton Paylor told WRAL. "I think with the pandemic going on and people having a lot of issues they’re dealing with themselves," he added.