A viral video posted to Facebook showing a family getting into a car has gotten the attention of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Department of Children and Families, not because of how many people were seated in the main part of the vehicle but because of who was put in the trunk.
The cellphone video shot by Tawana Robinson outside of a Cici's Pizza in the Northside neighborhood of Jacksonville, Florida, shows several children getting into the trunk of the car.
"Must watch!!! I thought I was seeing this wrong while I'm in Ci Ci's pizza and this car rolled up parked and 4 people got out the trunk!" Robinson wrote on Facebook. "So I sat, ate and waited for them to leave and NO my eyes wasn't deceiving me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Jacksonville Florida yall!!!!!!!!!!!"
The screen capture on the left shows one child standing among several adults before he got into the trunk of the car. Witnesses say they saw more people in the trunk. The video shows a woman shut the trunk after the child hopped in, but it doesn't include footage of them driving away. (Image source: YouTube)
Robinson's video has been shared more than 1.8 million times since being posted last week. The state's DCF though says that it only just learned of the situation a couple of days ago
"It is interesting that they'll post on social media but not make the contact. I think that's part of society. If you look at something and think it's really wrong, you really have an obligation to tell somebody," E. Lee Kaywork, CEO of Family Support Services, told WJXT-TV.
The video of the family in the parking lot showed several people standing around the back of a white sedan with an open trunk. At least a couple of children were seen getting into the trunk. At one point after it was shut, a male adult turned toward the restaurant and raised his arms, suggesting he knew he was being filmed. The video does not include footage of the adults — there appear to be five of them — getting back into the car or driving away.
"They is really putting all of them in the trunk so all of them can fit in the car," the woman recording said in the video.
"They looking to see if anybody is recording them. Yeah we're recording, y'all," she added later, laughing.
Robinson also uploaded the video to YouTube a couple of days after the incident where it has received more than 35,000 views:
Jon Harrell, a spokesman for the DCF, called the video "deeply disturbing."
"If you're placing children in the trunk of a car you're talking about possible suffocation, possible serious injury, especially if the car gets hit from behind," Harrell told WJXT.
Saravana Kabalan, owner of this Cici's location, told WJAX-TV the family came into the restaurant but decided to leave when they found they could not afford the buffet.
"'I would be glad to offer you a discount, we would love for you to stay and dine in,'" Kabalan recalled saying to the family, according to WJAX. "And they said 'no, no, no, we are leaving, we’ll go somewhere else' and they left."
A woman who witnessed the incident on Thursday last week told WJAX the family made threats after they realized they were being filmed.
"She said, 'you picked the right one today' meaning like she was going to do something," the witness, who was not identified by the news station, said, adding that she didn't call the police at the time because she was scared. "No one wanted to be seen dialing numbers on the cellphone."
As of Monday, DCF said it was trying to identify the people in the video.
"When you see something like this, children being treated this way, you have to wonder what is happening in the home. What's going on with these kids?" Harrell told WJAX.
Watch this report about the incident:
This story has been updated to correct a typo that said "truck" instead of "trunk"