PETALUMA, Calif. - A Petaluma woman cleared by police of allegations she and her husband tried to kidnap two children at a store said Friday that they were the victims of racism.
An investigation into a mom's claims about an attempted kidnapping turned up no crime, according to Petaluma police, and has led to a backlash from people who say she should apologize to the couple she accused.
On Friday, Sadie Martinez, the woman who had been accused of wrongdoing, said at a rally outside the store, "Yes, racism is alive and well in 2020. This is a perfect example of it."
The Petaluma Police Department said on Thursday there is no evidence to corroborate Katie Sorensen's claims that a couple shown in surveillance footage had tried to kidnap her children from a Michael's store on Dec. 7.
"To get up to go shopping one day and then be accused of trying to abduct somebody's children is heartbreaking," Martinez said.
"Do you really think it's OK to go online and be racist and make stories about a family?" she asked. "It's hard enough to be a Latin family in a white community."
Martinez said she understood why police put out a surveilance photo showing her and her husband, but she doesn't like it.
"Unfortunately we have targets on our back because we were labeled this, regardless of what's true or not," Martinez said.
She said she wants Sorensen prosecuted for filing a false police report. "The Katies of this world, it stops here. I"m sorry. It's not going on any more," she said to applause.
Sorensen did not return repeated requests for comment Friday. Police did not say whether they would pursue criminal charges against her.
Initially, Sorensen reported to police that a man and woman had followed her around the store as she was shopping with her 4-year-old son and 1-year-old daughter.
"My children were the targets of attempted kidnap," Katie Sorensen said in a video on Instagram that garnered millions of views but was deleted after her credibility came into question. "I want to share that story with you in an effort to raise awareness."
Sorensen told Petaluma police the couple made comments about her children's appearance as they walked behind her.
"I heard them talking about the features of my children, but I was totally paralyzed with fear," Sorensen said. "I just couldn't bring myself to say anything."
Police said in a news release, "She [Sorensen] said they followed her out to her car, loitered suspiciously, and then left when noticed by another individual nearby."
Officers searched the area where the alleged incident occured and based on what Sorensen described took place, they determined no crime was committed.
Police said Sorensen also told them she could identify the couple from a photograph and "didn’t want anyone arrested, but only wanted to raise awareness of the suspicious behavior."
According to police, they were alerted on Monday, Dec. 14, that Sorensen had made a social media video detailing the alleged incident that had occurred on Dec. 7.
Petaluma police said Sorensen's video included "significant information" that was not shared with officers. A new claim was that the man followed her around the store and out to the car and approached her child's stroller and tried to grab it.
The police department said those new accusations, if found to be true, could constitute as an attempted kidnapping so officers began investigating further, the police department said.
Officers interviewed Sorensen again on Monday, and this time she asserted that the couple approached her child's stroller and the man reached for it. She also told police she wanted the couple prosecuted, authorities said.
Officers were able to identify the couple and contacted them through social media.
"They promptly responded, agreed to be interviewed, and have fully cooperated with the investigation," Petaluma police said. "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."
Authorities said there is no proof the couple tried to kidnap the woman's kids, and the investigation is now focused on the possibility that Sorensen falsely reported a crime.