WARNING: This footage below of a Bakersfield man reportedly punching a toddler in the face contains material that some viewers may find disturbing due to explicit language and/or the graphic nature of the material.
Thanks to a social media firestorm, a Bakersfield resident who allegedly punched a toddler in his face at a neighborhood grocery store, has been arrested, according to an ABC30 report. Justin Whittington was booked Friday on felony child abuse charges when the disturbing video went viral and the store’s owner made a formal complaint. However, the California man was released from jail on reduced charges for assaulting the child.
Thursday, a video surfaced that appeared to show a man playing with a young boy in the aisles of a grocery store. However, it soon became apparent that the footage uploaded to the internet was not benign; a toddler was being assaulted.
A camera from Vest Market in Downtown Bakersfield records a man picking up a child by his clothing and talking to him sternly. In another angle, the child is seen running away from the man, who overtakes him seconds later. He is then seen punching or slapping the toddler across the face, causing him to fall to the floor of the store.
The Bakersfield man is then seen picking him up by an arm until the child stands. Moments later, a woman arrives and escorts the toddler out of the store while the assault suspect goes off camera to another area of the store. She was later identified as the boy’s mother. Chris Danaher, who works at a tattoo shop near the market, weighed in on the shocking video.
“I would never imagine treating a child like that. His wife or girlfriend or whatever was clearly pregnant. She had no regard to it. She picked up her son and left the store.”
It didn’t take long for the video to make it to social media. Apparently, Harry Dindral, the store’s owner, who is familiar with the man seen assaulting the child in the video, alerted Bakersfield police. Dindral said it was “the worst” thing he’s ever seen.
“It was the right thing to do [turning over the footage to police]. You don’t hit a child like that.”
Police arrested Justin Whittington, 23, at his home without incident Friday and booked him at the Lerdo Jail in Bakersfield for the alleged offense caught on tape. The toddler hit in the face by the man was at home at the time. Paramedics evaluated the child’s health, but he appeared to be doing fine and didn’t require medical attention at the time.
Social media users expressed anger when the footage went viral.
Whipping a child is one thing and abusing a child is another… What real man punches a toddler in the face
— Ashley Smith™ (@HARD2PLEASE_ASH) April 10, 2015
@ABC7 sadly, this probably isn’t the first time this has happened. I hope the cops get him soon.
— PunkassErnieOgTT (@escane1) April 10, 2015
@ABC7 Put this sad excuse for a”man” in a locked room with a bunch of outraged grandmas. He won’t be hitting any more little kids.
— Margo Seiple (@bookwoman777) April 10, 2015
In a turn of events, Bakersfield Police amended the man’s charges from child abuse to child endangerment. Initially, Whittington was held on a bail of $1 million. The reduction in charges changed his bail to $20,000. He was released a short time later, but still faces charges for allegedly assaulting the toddler in the face.
[Photo by: ABC7 via Twitter]