Controversy is swirling around a "mom influencer" on social media after she accused a couple of plotting to abduct her children at a California shopping center. Police are now investigating whether the Sonoma County woman made a false kidnap report, NBC News reports. She has not been identified by authorities, but media outlets ID her as Katie Sorensen, who used to run the Instagram account @motherhoodessentials (which now appears to have been taken offline). Sorensen posted a video on Instagram claiming that on Dec. 7, she took her young kids to a Michael's craft store in Petaluma, where a Latino couple followed them, made a phone call describing the children to an unknown third party, and then apparently tried to grab her stroller in the parking lot before a passerby helped her, KTVU reports. She made a police report in addition to the video.
The video and a follow-up got more than 4 million views, and Sorensen went from 6,000 followers to more than 80,000 as the story went viral, SFGate reports. The Petaluma Police Department released a surveillance camera image of the couple and asked the public for help with identification; Sadie Vega-Martinez recognized it as a photograph of herself and her husband, Eddie Martinez, after her daughter noticed it making the rounds in conspiracy theorist circles, per BuzzFeed. They cooperated with police, who ultimately found no evidence of any wrongdoing on their part. "It’s like we’re literally guilty of being brown while shopping," Vega-Martinez said at a subsequent press conference, per the Petaluma Argus-Courier. "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." The police chief says that if evidence of a racially-motivated crime is uncovered, "We will seek prosecution to the fullest extent under the law." (Read more California stories.)