YouTube video sparks abuse investigation

A YouTube video purporting to show elder abuse at the University Town Center in Irvine gained attention online last week and sparked a police investigation.

In the clip, the unseen videographer confronts a man who has wheeled an elderly woman to the passenger-side door of a Toyota Prius.

“Is this your mom? Why do you exploit her?” he asks.

The man being filmed yells back, calls the cameraman a “paid stooge” and accuses him of harassing the woman.

The two trade accusations for almost three minutes, with the videographer repeatedly asking why the man exploits the older woman.

The video’s description accuses the unidentified man of forcing the woman to beg for money at locations in Irvine.

In the past week, the video has been submitted at least twice to the popular link-sharing website, and multiple news outlets have been written about it.

However, Irvine police say they’ve been aware of the video since a few days after it was posted Dec. 5.

“None of this is news to us. We were a month into this investigation before anyone was talking about it,” Irvine police spokeswoman Lt. Julia Engen said.

Both Adult Protective Services and Irvine police have spoken to the woman and man shown in the video as part of a cooperative investigation, the lieutenant said.

Police are still digging, but Engen said they’ve so far found no indication of a broken law.

Despite the dramatic exchanges, “What you see on that video, there’s no evidentiary value there,” Engen said.

Just picking up or dropping off the woman in the video isn’t criminal, she said, adding that the woman was lucid during interviews with police, showing no physical signs of abuse and declining any offer of assistance.

Police are still assessing the situation and will take action if there is evidence of abuse, according to the department.

“We are taking it very seriously,” Engen said.

She said the amount of attention the video has garnered is out of the ordinary for the department but added it’s not that odd for Irvine police to get tips through social media like Twitter or Reddit.

“We will always accept and take anything we receive, even in an anonymous form,” Engen said.

Twitter: @jeremiahdobruck