California police investigate if 'mom influencer' made false kidnap report on Latino couple
California police are investigating whether a woman made a false report telling officials that a couple tried to kidnap their two young children in the parking lot of a Michaels craft store in Petaluma.
Police said their investigation into the Dec. 7 incident found evidence to support the couple's version of the couple's events.
During a press conference on Friday, the couple, who are Latino, denied the allegations against them, the Argus courier said.
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Police said a woman told officers that a couple followed her to Michaels just before 10:30 a.m. and followed her while shopping in a stroller with their children.
She said the couple had "made comments about the children's appearance," according to a police department press release.
"The couple reportedly followed the woman to her car, where the couple was lingering near the stroller when the woman put their children in the vehicle," it said. They got in their car and drove away after someone intervened nearby.
The press release did not name the woman who wrote the report, but numerous outlets have identified her as Katie Sorensen, a "mother influencer" on social media.
Calls to the Petaluma Police Department and the numbers provided for Sorensen were not returned immediately Tuesday.
A week after reporting the incident, police said the woman had made a social media video of what had happened and recorded "important information" that she did not share with officials.
The video has since been deleted from her account but has been put back online.
In it, Sorensen said that her two children were the target of kidnapping attempts and that she felt the need to "get that information out of there."
She then described how she noticed a man near her car in the back of the Michaels parking lot. Sorensen, who was sitting in her car when she was filming the video, said the man walked up to her as she put her children in a double stroller, "looked for a while" and then got back in his car.
She said she kept putting her son and daughter in the stroller and went to the store. She said the man, now accompanied by a woman, followed her into the house.
"I definitely felt the Heebie jeebies," said Sorensen. "I wasn't feeling good, but I thought I would judge a book by its cover. They weren't nice, that sounds bad, but they weren't clean individuals."
Sorensen said she kept shopping and tried to ignore the couple as they followed her, making comments about what their children looked like. At one point in the video, she said that she was standing at the checkout and heard the man call and say, "The boy is getting easier because he doesn't wear a mask so the mother doesn't really have to take care of him." a lot of."
"I can't tell you why I didn't turn around to say something," she said. “I was paralyzed with fear. And I almost only discredited what happened like I couldn't focus on the fact that it actually happened, so I just kind of ignored it. "
Sorensen said after paying for her things, she rushed to her car and called her husband to tell him someone was following her. She said as she approached her vehicle, she saw a white van parked next to her car and "my stomach just sinks."
"I'm too scared to change the direction I'm going," she said. "I was scared and didn't know what I was doing. I'm going straight to my car and getting ready to invite my kids asap."
Sorensen went on to see the couple walking towards their car and it seemed like the man had something in his hand.
“They took two steps forward to the stroller and then two steps back. Then two steps forward, then two steps back. It didn't make sense. It was obvious what they were doing and the last time he grabbed the stroller, "she said.
Sorensen said she asked for help from someone nearby and the couple got in their car and drove off. She said another man came up to her from behind and "he's kind of playing it off like you need help with something." This man then got in the van and left, she said on the video.
Police said the officers initially investigated the incident as an attempted child abduction based on the details Sorensen shared in her video. The department released a photo of the couple captured by the store's security camera and asked the public for help with identification.
Petaluma police later cleaned up the couple after speaking to them.
"We have received information about the couple's identity and are connected to them through a private message on their social media. They responded promptly, agreed to be interviewed, and fully cooperated in the investigation," police said. "While they confirmed that they had shopped at Michael and were the couple shown in the photo, they denied the allegations made against them by the reporting party."
"To date, the investigation has not produced any evidence or witnesses to confirm the account provided by the reporting party. The evidence gathered has helped support the account provided by the couple from the store," police continued.
"Based on the evidence gathered so far, PPD is investigating whether this incident may have been falsely reported," police said. "This investigation is active and ongoing."
The Argus courier identified the couple as Sadie and Eddie Martinez. They said they were in Michaels to buy Christmas decorations and believe Sorensen's allegations are racially motivated.
"I couldn't believe it. It's like we're literally guilty of being tan while shopping," Sadie Martinez said at a press conference.
"I don't know if anyone has been paying attention in the past four years, but there has been a lot of racism and well, Katie is following suit," she continued. "Am I shocked? But will we stand for it? Under no circumstance. That's why I'm standing in front of everyone today to prosecute Katie. "
The Petaluma Police Department has not said whether they will pursue possible charges against Sorensen. Chief Ken Savano said in a statement Friday that "hate crimes of any kind will not be tolerated" and he will seek full prosecution "if evidence of a racially motivated hate crime is found".
"In addition, we will seek prosecution to the fullest extent possible if at any point during our investigation we find evidence that a person is knowingly and intentionally making a false report of a crime," he added.
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