Two Georgia teens are accused of staging a kidnapping at a popular shopping center in an effort to get more followers on YouTube.
Ava Coleman, 17, and Christopher Jones Kratzer, 19 are now facing felony charges of raising a false alarm and a misdemeanor count of reckless conduct after the Forsyth County Sherriff’s said it received multiple 911 calls about an abduction in progress at The Collection shopping center and deployed more than half its deputies on duty to respond.
At about 6 p.m. on July 3, witnesses reported seeing a female with her hands bound and her head covered by what appeared to be a pillowcase inside a Chevrolet Tahoe, according to The Forsyth County News.
The woman was screaming “He is going to kill me” as the car drove through the shopping center’s parking lot.
The Forsyth County Sheriff’s office quickly dispatched eight deputies to the scene—more than half its force in South Forsyth—who were traveling in emergency mode with their lights on, according to a statement from the sheriff’s office.
“For 20 straight minutes, we had deputies racing across Forsyth County to help this girl, thinking that this was a true abduction. … That’s unacceptable,” Cpl. Doug Rainwater, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office, told the local paper.
But deputies would soon learn the alleged kidnapping had been nothing but a “prank” allegedly designed to gain more followers on a YouTube channel.
The pair were stopped by officers in a felony traffic stop in a nearby parking lot, where officers ordered the pair out of the vehicle at gunpoint.
Investigators say during their investigation they discovered that Kratzer and Coleman had planned to film the elaborate hoax to put it on the social media channel.
No one was hurt in the incident, but Rainwater said the situation could have easily escalated to a much more dangerous situation.
“So many things could have gone wrong,” he said. “We truly thought that there was a kidnapping in progress.”
Kratzer and Coleman were both later booked into the Forsyth County Jail.
Kratzer was also arrested in April 2018 after he was caught throwing blocks of wood and other items out the window of his car, damaging five vehicles in the process. He was sentenced to nine years of probation and 200 hours of community service after pleading guilty to six counts of criminal damage to property, according to the paper.
Sheriff Ron Freeman hopes that the teens latest brush with the law will serve as a cautionary tale to others.
"If you want to create a social media following, I would strongly dissuade you from this stupidity. Good armed citizens might have been justified in using force to stop what they legitimately believed was a kidnapping,” Sheriff Ron Freeman said in the statement. “Committing a criminal act for social media likes will get you arrested in Forsyth County. That's not the kind of attention most people want to have."
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