An African-American woman from North Carolina has been arrested after videos of the alleged suspect’s 1-year-old daughter puffing on a marijuana joint garnered millions of views online, according to an arrest warrant.
Brianna Ashanti Lofton, who is accused of allowing her baby to smoke a small cigar in a video that went viral. Police said on Wednesday, March 21, 2018, that Lofton, 20, was charged with marijuana possession and child abuse. (Wake County Detention Center via AP and screenshot from video)
Authorities were alerted March 21 by concerned social media users after two videos of the toddler smoking sparked outrage. One of the videos showed the hand of an adult off-screen holding the cigarillo to the girl’s lips. The child makes a cooing sound, appears to inhale and lets out a puff of smoke before turning toward the adult with an expressionless look.
The newly released warrant said the mother inflicted harm by having the child inhale marijuana smoke from a blunt more than once over a two-month period starting last December. The girl has been placed with county child protective services.
The mother, 20-year-old Brianna Ashanti Lofton, was held on charges of child abuse, marijuana possession and contributing to the delinquency of a minor, according to a statement by the Raleigh Police Department.
During a brief court hearing March 22, a Wake County judge set Lofton’s bond at $100,000 and ordered her to have no contact with her daughter.
A prosecutor had asked for a higher bond, noting Lofton recently faced separate charges including marijuana possession and simple assault.
Public defender Caroline Elliot noted those were misdemeanors.
“This is the first … kind of this charge that she has ever looked at,” Elliot told the judge, referring to the felony child abuse accusation.
Elliot noted her client lives with her mother and grandmother and is working on her high school equivalency diploma.
“She does have family support,” she told the judge.
Elliot declined further comment after the hearing.
No one answered at an apartment listed as Lofton’s address in the warrant, nor at another house previously listed for her in court papers.
Police issued a thank-you to members of the public who alerted them to the video.
“We appreciate the public’s help in this matter,” said RPD Lt. Jason Hodge in a statement.
While police said multiple Facebook users alerted them to the video, an account holder whose post was seen by millions said he shared the video hoping the woman would be held responsible. He included a message urging her arrest.
The user, who identified himself as Rasheed Martin of Rochester, New York, said he doesn’t know the mother and first found out about the video when a friend shared it online. He said in an interview March 21 that once other users alerted him to the mother’s own social media account, he posted screenshots of that, too, “so everyone could know exactly who … did that to the poor little girl.”