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Couple accused of attempted kidnapping in viral videos fight back against Sonoma accuser

When Sadie and Eddie Martinez of Petaluma headed out last week to pick up a nativity scene and decorations for their Christmas display, they had no idea they’d end up at the center of an international media firestorm, accused by a Sonoma woman of attempting to kidnap her two young children.

On Friday, the Latino couple stood outside the Michaels craft store where a white mother with a prominent social media platform alleged they had attempted to abduct her kids — an allegation they said was racially motivated and merited her prosecution for filing a false police report.

An investigation of the couple by Petaluma police, fueled in part by a pair of Instagram videos that reached 4.5 million people worldwide, found no evidence of wrongdoing, police said Thursday.

“I couldn’t believe it. It’s like we’re literally guilty of being brown while shopping,” Sadie Martinez said at a news conference about the Dec. 7 encounter.

The Sonoma woman who made the allegations, identified in various media reports as Katie Sorensen, is a “mom influencer” who posts frequently on Instagram, with followers stretching beyond Sonoma County. She has not responded to requests for comment by the Argus-Courier or The Press Democrat.

Police did not directly address whether they would pursue charges against Sorensen, specifically, though late Friday, Chief Ken Savano released a statement saying, “We will seek prosecution to the fullest extent under the law,” if the department finds evidence of a racially motivated hate crime or of a person knowingly making a false report of a crime.

The statement did not address the Michaels incident specifically, or name Sorensen or the Martinezes.

In addition, Savano said his department treats all reports of potential child abductions seriously, “without bias towards age, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability or religion.”

Sorensen leveled the accusations against Sadie and Eddie Martinez in a pair of videos posted to her Instagram account. They were taken down after the case drew police scrutiny and made headlines, including reports in BuzzFeed and the London-based Daily Mail.

Sorensen, in a follow-up Instagram post, said she had done so to protect “my family and the integrity of the ongoing investigation.”

Police officials said their investigation had “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.”

In the videos, Sorensen said the couple followed her through the McDowell Boulevard craft store, watching her and her children closely. She claimed the couple described how her children looked to a third party on the phone, and trailed her through the checkout stand and into the parking lot, where she said the man attempted to grab her stroller with her child in it.

Sorensen drove to police to report the incident immediately after, she told police. She told officers then she wasn’t looking to have anyone arrested, though she did want to alert them of the “concerning behavior exhibited by the couple,” the police statement said. A few hours later, she told authorities she would testify to the accusations, and that she wanted the couple prosecuted.

On Monday, police questioned “inconsistencies” between the story Sorensen told them, and the one she posted to Instagram, but they released a photo of the couple in Michaels and asked for help identifying them. That’s when the Martinezes became aware they were under suspicion.

“My kid came to me and showed me the picture, and said, ‘Mom this looks like you’,” Sadie Martinez said.

Petaluma police did not respond to multiple requests for more details on this incident. They did track down the couple, using social media to identify Eddie and Sadie Martinez.

The longtime Petaluma residents are parents to five kids between the ages of 11 and 24. Eddie Martinez is a UPS driver, and Sadie Martinez is heavily involved in her kids’ schools, a part-time bookkeeper and an avid “arts and craft person.”

“We wanted to get a nativity scene to put beneath the tree,” Sadie Martinez said of her trip to Michaels. “We got a little statue with the baby Jesus and some cloth gift bags.

“I feel uncomfortable going back to that store now,” she added. “One of my kids wanted to go there to buy stuff to make hot chocolate balls and I just don’t feel comfortable. I feel like I have a target on my back, now that our image is out on the internet. Who’s to say some crazy person is not gonna come for us?”

The incident has drawn comparison to several national incidents in which white women have called the police on people of color, seemingly for living their regular lives. From a woman who falsely claimed she was threatened by a Black bird-watcher in Central Park to “BBQ Becky,” who called 911 about Black people barbecuing at a park in Oakland, the issue of improper emergency calls has been under public scrutiny. In October, San Francisco made racially motivated 911 calls a crime.

As of Friday, Sorensen’s social media pages seem to have been deleted. Once police cleared the couple of any wrongdoing, the national coverage seemed to turn on Sorensen, with several outlets calling her a liar and a racist.

“I don’t know if anyone’s been paying attention the last four years, but there’s been a lot of racism going on and well, Katie’s following suit,” Sadie Martinez told a gaggle of reporters and and a crowd of more than 80 supporters Friday outside Michaels. “Am I shocked? No. But will we stand for it? Hell no. So today, I stand in front of everybody in a fight to prosecute Katie.”

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