AUSTIN, Texas (KXAN) — An arrest warrant has been issued for an Austin woman who is accused of encouraging her 4-year-old daughter to fight with other children while filming it on her phone.
On Aug. 12, Austin police say they received a report of a child endangerment from a man who said Jennifer Sanchez, 19, the mother of his child, was taping videos that showed the children fighting.
The father also posted the videos on his Facebook page, making the videos go viral — the videos have since been removed from his page. 24-Hour News 8’s sister station KXAN received several emails and Facebook messages about the videos that week but at the time, police would only say they were investigating.
According to court documents, the first video shows four young children and a teenager jumping on a large trampoline at a home in south Austin. In the video, two little girls can be seen fighting and pulling each others’ hair. Police say Sanchez’s daughter was knocked down by her 4-year-old aunt and then dragged by her hair.
The victim starts “crying in pain” and yelled for Sanchez’s help but the mother continues to “encourage and cheer for the fight to continue,” according to the affidavit. At one point, Sanchez encouraged one of the younger boys to hit her child as she was having her hair pulled.
The second video shows the two girls fighting in the living room. Both victims can be seen punching and slapping each other in the face and head, police say. A man’s voice could be heard in the background saying, “Go, go, punch, punch, come on, if you want that cupcake.”
When Sanchez met with Child Protective Services a few days later, she said she recorded both videos and she sent the videos to her child’s father’s mother, arrest affidavits say.
The father who called police and posted the videos online spoke with KXAN on Tuesday.
“It was hard for me to even call CPS, reach out to the police, you know, I did it for — ‘cause my daughter. I seen how hurt she was in that video,” explained Augustine Amaro. “The old me would have went over there and flipped out, and I wouldn’t cared about nothing. But, I did it for my daughter. I don’t want her to keep going through this cycle over and over and over again.”
Amaro says the content of the video forced him to report it to police and post it online, although he wasn’t certain whether any of the adults involved would face charges.
“There’s so many kids that just grow up in an abusive home. I don’t know what goes on with my daughter unless I see proof. I don’t like to do nothing unless I see proof, and I finally have proof. So, I went on and did what I had to do,” said Amaro. “I wanted to get her out of that situation, you know, the best I can.”
Watching the video, the father says, was painful.
“My daughter’s crying. She’s in pain. Anybody that sees that video knows that,” he said. “They were physically beating her up. She’s yelling for help from her mother — the one she’s supposed to go to with all her problems, you know? Her dad’s not there, so she’s going to go to her mother with all her problems, and she’s getting mistreated like this.”
The father says that although he is on probation related to family violence charges involving his daughter’s mother, Jennifer Sanchez, he says he hopes their custody battle will end in his favor. Amaro tells KXAN he will pursue custody of the little girl.
“I don’t let that go on in my house. The kids can’t fight in my house,” he said.
Amaro says he will try to retain an emergency custody hearing so at the very least, his mother has the possibility of getting custody.
“My mom is the best fit for her. She loves my mom. They got a bond that’s unbreakable,” Amaro added.
Police are also charging Sanchez’s mother, Joann Sanchez, 37, with child endangerment since she said she watched “both children physically assault each other and failed to stop them from continuing to fight.” Joann Sanchez told authorities she felt she was teaching her 4-year-old daughter to defend herself from bullies by allowing her to fight with her 4-year-old granddaughter.
According to court documents, the man who was talking about the cupcake was identified as Joann Sanchez’s boyfriend, Tommy Cruz, 32.
All three adults are facing child endangerment charges. If convicted they could spend up to two years behind bars.
A spokesperson for CPS says they removed two girls, ages 2 and 4, from Jennifer Sanchez’s care. The agency also removed five children from Joann Sanchez, their ages ranging from 4-9 years old.
No one answered when KXAN knocked on the door of the south Austin duplex identified as the home where the fights happened.
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