A cellphone video of a woman loading two small kids into a shopping cart outside a store has gone viral, prompting concerned local police to track her down.
The issue? The cold. It was eight degrees below freezing in the parking lot in North Dakota and the video shows the children wearing only leggings and a shirt, with no socks.
According to the Williston Police, “numerous concerns citizens have reported the incident” at a local grocery store, noting that “the children did not have appropriate winter gear on for the weather conditions.”
In a later update statement posted to Facebook, police said that the children had been “safely located,” and that they were investigating the incident, on Jan. 11.
In the meantime, the video had gone viral on social media, stirring debate on whether the footage captured a moment of abuse or just a few harmless moments in between the warmth of the car and the store.
In 18 hours it was viewed 2.9 million times, shared over 50,000 times and gathered over 14,000 reactions.
The video shows a girl in a red top sitting in the trolley. She appears to be wearing a long-sleeve shirt, gray leggings but has no shoes or socks.
A woman, who appears more substantially dressed, is then seen opening the door of the car. At this point, she spends a few seconds doing something before hoisting a boy onto her shoulder then putting him in the trolley. He also is dressed only in a long-sleeve shirt and trousers, without shoes.
The woman can be seen moving her hands rapidly before she pulls the boy out of the car—some observers on social media have interpreted these movements as her allegedly striking the child.
The woman who shared the video on Facebook said the temperature was minus eight when the incident happened, around 8 a.m.
Most comments on social media are critical of the woman, many dubbing the incident as child abuse. But some point out that given the short-time between the warm car and supermarket, there isn’t much cause for concern.
“I’ve been seeing snaps of many parents doing this to kids while they flaunt their North Face Jacket and the child has merely a sweater and socks,” wrote Ashley Alkire on a KFYR-TV Facebook post. “No hats, gloves, jacket or shoes. Hello it’s ND. It gets cold. People wonder why their kids get sick and children die from the flu. Common sense people.”
Some were concerned about the way the woman handled the boy.
“If you watch even closer she yanks that poor boy across the back seat and all but catapults him into the cart,” Laurie Tollefson Wagner wrote. “Seems odd she found her coat and the children didn’t.”
Only if she had abandoned her children dressed like that while she went shopping, would it be an issue wrote Facebook user Kris Adkins, “So, she went to a store with her children and put them in a cart to go into the store, and bought some things. Can someone please explain to me how this is wrong? Ridiculous, how this planet has become.”
“I don’t care if it was 100 degrees in that car!” wrote Tawnee Barry on the Williston police announcement. “Completely unacceptable!”