Three adults stage kidnapping of girl in Walmart parking lot
The Forest Lake Police Department briefly considered a suspicious and unsettling Sunday night incident to be a possible kidnapping. After hours of investigation and coordination with media and other law enforcement agencies, the department discovered the bizarre scene that had unfolded in the Walmart parking lot was simply an ill-advised joke staged by four thrill-seeking sisters.
FLPD Capt. Greg Weiss on Monday afternoon confirmed the incident was a hoax. Though that determination came less than 24 hours into the investigation, it was not soon enough to prevent the incident from receiving significant coverage from Twin Cities media.
Police took a call at 8:30 p.m. Sunday from a witness who described an alarming series of events she saw take place just feet from the entrance of the store at 200 SW 12th St. Police would verify the account of the witness after reviewing Walmart surveillance video.
Footage showed a girl hop out of the trunk of a parked car and run south past the hood of the vehicle. As the girl passed the car, an adult female got out of the front passenger seat and gave chase. The adult quickly caught the girl, pulled her back to the trunk and placed her inside. The car then left the scene at a high rate of speed.
Police sought help from the public in identifying the car and its occupants and placed the footage online.
At 2 p.m. Monday, the department took a call from the mother of the juvenile involved in the incident. The mother said the parking lot scene was staged.
“Our office interviewed those involved, found video evidence on their phones, and we have determined the suspicious situation to be nothing more than an attempt at a prank,” Weiss said Monday.
The girl in the trunk is a 13-year-old from Linwood. Her sisters in the car include a 22-year-old from Forest Lake, a 25-year-old from South Carolina and a 27-year-old from Tennessee.
Police were wrapping up the investigation Tuesday and will pass it on to the county attorney’s office for possible charges or referrals. Names were not released to protect the juvenile’s identity.
“We’re going to push for something,” Weiss said Monday. “We have a lot of time and money invested in it.”
Detectives put in overtime hours on Sunday and the department worked with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and Washington County.
Speaking to the City Council at its Monday night meeting, Police Chief Rick Peterson said the department’s tip line received calls from all over the country regarding possible abductions callers believed the incident may be related to.
Some clues cast doubt on the incident’s authenticity, but the department had no choice but to treat the situation as a possible kidnapping, Weiss said.
“We’d like to be able to say, ‘Yeah, it’s a prank,’ but we don’t have the ability to do that,” he said. “We’d be faking ourselves out.”
Peterson echoed that sentiment Monday night.
“Of course, the first thing you think is, ‘That can’t be happening,’ but we take everything seriously because you just never know,” he said.