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Police clear hispanic couple that ‘mom influencer’ claimed attempted to kidnap her child in viral video

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Steve Rubenstein

San Francisco Chronicle

Petaluma police said they were looking into a widely publicized incident at a craft store to find out whether a local couple were falsely accused by an internet influencer of trying to kidnap two of her children.

The incident, which occurred Dec. 7, quickly became an internet sensation after the influencer, Katie Sorensen, posted an online account, since deleted, of what she said was an attempt to kidnap her children in the parking lot outside of Michaels craft store on North McDowell Boulevard.

In her video, Sorensen said the couple, identified later as Sadie and Eddie Martinez, had followed her and the children through the store, to the checkout counter and into the parking lot, and accused them of trying to grab the stroller.

Police chief Ken Savano said in a statement Friday that officers initially found insufficient evidence of a crime.

After police reviewed an online post by Sorensen describing the alleged kidnapping, Savano said, the department had “launched an investigation into whether this incident was potentially falsely reported.”

“Hate crimes of any type will not be tolerated and will be pursed aggressively,” Savano said in the statement.

Standing outside the store Friday, Sadie Martinez told reporters she felt like she had been accused of “being brown while shopping,” adding that “racism is alive and well in 2020.”

Exactly what happened at the store and in the parking lot remains unclear.

No charges have been filed against the Martinezes or Sorensen in connection with the incident. Sorensen’s account on Instagram, which had 82,000 followers, has been deleted, and attempts to reach her were not successful.

Sorensen is white. The Martinezes are Latino.

The incident has been compared to the notorious Barbecue Becky incident, in which a white woman called police on Black men in 2018, accusing them of using a charcoal grill in a non-designated area at Lake Merritt in Oakland.

Steve Rubenstein is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: srubenstein@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @SteveRubeSF

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