UPDATE (10:30 p.m.): The Kern County Sheriff’s Office confirmed the woman seen in the video was taken into custody and booked into jail on a felony count of willful cruelty to a child.
The woman identified as Melissa Medel, 38, was taken into custody Thursday night after deputies and Child Protective Services made contact with her at a motel in the 8200 block of East Brundage Lane.
Child Protective Services took custody of a 3 year old boy and a 1 month old boy.
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — As she approached the van, Mayra Law was shocked at what she saw: an infant and a boy who appeared about 3 left inside.
“My heart just dropped,” Law told 17 News. “How could someone do something like that and leave, you know, kids locked in the vehicle with the windows fully up, and no one in there with her and just walk away? And it was like 100 degrees yesterday when I checked my phone.”
Law, a mother of a young girl and currently 8 months pregnant, said her motherly instincts kicked in and she began recording on her cellphone. She said she wanted evidence that could be presented to authorities.
In the video, which has racked up more than 16,000 views on Facebook, Law and others gather around the silver minivan parked Wednesday afternoon outside the FoodMaxx on Niles Street. Someone asks whether they should break a window. The young boy then unlocks the doors.
Law said the keys were in the ignition and the air conditioning was running but it was warm inside. She said a blanket covered the face of the baby, who wasn’t buckled in.
Under state law, a parent or caretaker may not leave a child 6 or under inside a vehicle with the engine running or keys in the ignition unless there is someone 12 or older with them.
Before they could remove the children, a woman dressed in a black tank top and shorts approached the van. Law said the woman swore as she neared them.
Someone is heard in the video telling the woman, “Your baby’s not buckled.”
The woman responds, “(Expletive) who gives a (expletive), (expletive).”
The video then shows the woman rapidly approach the camera and the recording ends.
Law said she turned off the camera and prepared to defend herself when the woman charged her. Other people intervened, she said.
They tried to keep the woman there until deputies arrived, but the woman jumped in the van, reversed it, and sped out of the parking lot, Law said. She said she and others were nearly hit when the van backed up.
Earlier, a shopper told FoodMaxx employees the boy had been wandering around the parking lot by himself. The woman, who was in the store at the time, went outside and and dragged the boy by the hair back to the van, Law said.
The woman then went back inside the store. It was shortly afterward that Law walked toward the van, she said.
Efforts to reach the woman Wednesday were unsuccessful.
Sheriff’s Lt. Joel Swanson said an investigation is ongoing. He said the woman in the video has not been identified, and it’s unclear if she is the mother of the children or a caretaker.
Law said someone needs to step in if the woman is incapable of taking care of the children. In addition to the heat risk, someone could have stolen the van, she said.
“It just broke my heart to know that she left two kids in there and it could have turned worse than what the situation was,” she said.