Police Investigate Mom Influencer Who Claimed a Couple Tried to Abduct Her Children
Law enforcement officials in California have launched an investigation into an aspiring mom influencer who reported an attempted child abduction to police and claimed on social media that her children were "the targets of an attempted kidnap."
The Petaluma Police Department said in a recent statement that they are now investigating the woman and "whether this incident was potentially falsely reported," after she released on social media "information that was not disclosed with her original report" to authorities.
According to police, the woman reported what she described as suspicious behavior from a man and woman toward her children in the parking lot of a local Michael's craft store on Dec. 7.
At the time, the woman told authorities the couple "made comments concerning the children's appearance," and "followed her out to her car, loitered suspiciously, and then left when noticed by another individual nearby," according to a police press release.
Authorities did not name the woman who made the report in their statement. But Katie Sorensen, an aspiring mom influencer publicly alleged that her children were "the targets of an attempted kidnap" in an Instagram video. Sorenson also made allegations to local station KTVU.
Shared on her now-deleted Instagram account, MotherhoodEssentials, the video was viewed over 4 million times before it was deleted.
Police have said the social media post contained information that was not in the initial police report, but they have not specified what that information is.
PEOPLE has reached out to Sorensen and the Petaluma Police Department for comment.
In the now-viral clip, which was copied and re-posted by some users before it was deleted, Sorensen alleged that she was followed by a man and a woman while shopping with her children, claiming that they made comments about her kids before attempting to approach them in the parking lot, NBC News reported.
Sorensen also reportedly claimed in the video that the man tried to reach into her stroller before she screamed for help.
"I saw these people, they didn't look necessarily clean-cut," Sorensen later told KTVU. "I felt uncomfortable around them, and instead of making them uncomfortable with my discomfort, I chose to remain in my discomfort."
Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Sign up for PEOPLE's free True Crime newsletter for breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage, and details of intriguing unsolved cases.
Petaluma police re-interviewed Sorensen after her video went viral, and authorities said in a Dec. 17 press release that she was "definitive that the couple approached her children’s stroller and that the male reached for it; she stated she would testify to that fact, and that she wanted the couple prosecuted."
According to authorities, they were able to identify the couple after reviewing images from the store's security camera and the pair "promptly responded, agreed to be interviewed, and have fully cooperated with the investigation."
"While acknowledging they had shopped at Michael’s and were the couple shown in the photograph, they denied the allegations being made against them by the reporting party," the Petaluma Police Department said in a statement.
"To date, the investigation has produced no evidence or witnesses corroborating the account provided by the reporting party. Evidence gathered has served to support the account provided by the couple from the store," police said, adding that the kidnapping investigation "is now considered closed, absent any additional evidence or corroborating statements from witnesses."
While the kidnapping investigation is closed, the investigation about a potential false police report "remains active and ongoing," police said in their statement.
On Dec. 18, the couple identified themselves in a press conference as Sadie and Eddie Martinez and publicly addressed Sorensen's allegations.
"I couldn’t believe it. It’s like we’re literally guilty of being brown while shopping," said Sadie Martinez, who was at Michael's with her husband shopping for Christmas decorations, according to The Argus-Courier.
Sadie Martinez's daughter, Esaia Gonzalez, told BuzzFeed that both her mother and stepfather are of Latino descent and she questioned if Sorensen "sincerely misconstrued this 'brown' couple innocently shopping at a craft store and discussing their own grandchildren as an activity that was somehow threatening to her family."
Gonzalez also said that her stepdad was wearing a "Black Lives Matter" hoodie at the time of the incident.
RELATED VIDEO: Black Lives Matter Mural Outside Trump Tower Defaced Days After Installation
"It’s no surprise that this year has been one of turmoil for everyone, given the pandemic, Black Lives Matter movement, calls for police reform, the election, etc. I am, however, surprised at the climate of hate it has created in smaller parts of the country, such as Sonoma County," she said.
Authorities have not said if they will be pursuing charges against Sorensen, though Petaluma Police Department Chief Ken Savano said in a statement on Dec. 18, "If evidence of a racially-motivated hate crime is found to have occurred we will seek prosecution to the fullest extent under the law."
"Additionally, we will also seek prosecution to the fullest extent of law, if, at any time during our investigation, we find evidence of a person knowingly and intentionally making a false report of a crime."