Shoppers at Walmart watched helplessly as the kidnapping spectacle unfolded — but only later did witnesses, police and local media realize they had been duped, police said.
Around 9 p.m. Sunday, a man walked up to a seafoam green sedan stopped outside a Walmart in Midlothian, Virginia, according to Chesterfield County police. As the man opened one of the car doors, the vehicle’s trunk spang open — and a woman jumped out of it and began to run off, witnesses said.
That’s when two men hopped out of the car themselves and pursued the woman, according to police. Eventually the men recaptured their apparent victim. As she tried to fight them off, they forced her back into the vehicle. Then they sped out of the parking lot, according to police.
For about a day, local police scoured the area for clues. Walmart surveillance photos of the incident were posted on social media, with the police appealing to the community for help tracking suspects down. Authorities even called in FBI support to figure out what happened, WTVR reports.
Then, Monday evening, the woman who had been “abducted” and one of her male “abductors” walked into the police station to admit that it was a hoax. The woman was safe and sound, police said.
The pair told authorities that they chose to come clean after seeing extensive coverage of the apparent kidnapping on the local news, according to police. The woman had driven to the police station in the seafoam green sedan used in the “abduction,” which was actually her car.
Four men and the one woman — all either 19 or 20 — plotted the hoax over dinner and behind the Walmart Sunday night before showing up in front to carry out the plan, according to police. Police have now spoken to all of them.
Police said charges may be filed in the case: "It could be anything from a summons type offense to a lower misdemeanor," Captain Jay Thornton of the Chesterfield Police Department told WTVR.
But why did they do it? Their plan was to film onlookers' horrified reactions as they witnessed the “abduction,” according to police. Then the group planned to post the video and make a splash on social media.
"It's very irresponsible to fake a staged kidnapping for social media likes, so yes I do believe they should be charged," Jolene Shifflett, a local, told WTVR.
Thornton told the Chesterfield Observer that he's glad no one was actually in danger. But he also said the group that staged the fake kidnapping is lucky it didn’t accidentally turn violent.
“We’re glad it turned out like it did. Obviously, we don’t want to find someone in a tragic situation at the end of something like that,” Thornton told the newspaper. “If someone in the parking lot had decided to take some action and interject themselves, that could have turned out really bad.”