Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Unable to Corroborate Reporting Party’s Claims, Investigation of Petaluma Attempted Abduction Closed After Suspects Cooperate


The following is a press release issued by the Petaluma Police Department:

Image from the Petaluma Police Department’s Website

On the morning of Monday, December 7, 2020, a woman came to the Petaluma Police Department to report suspicious behavior from a man and woman concerning her children earlier in the parking lot of Michael’s craft store on North McDowell Boulevard.  She described two people (a man and woman) following her into the store and following her around inside as she shopped. The reporting party was pushing her two young children in a stroller.  The reporting party said the couple made comments concerning the children’s appearance as they walked behind her; she said they followed her out to her car, loitered suspiciously, and then left when noticed by another individual nearby. 
Officers searched the area where the reported incident occurred. Based on what the reporting party described, it was determined that no crime had taken place.  The reporting party (who had described the couple and said she could identify them from a photograph) said she didn’t want anyone arrested, but only wanted to raise awareness of the suspicious behavior.

Because no criminal conduct had been described, the Petaluma Police Department did not issue a public notice concerning the incident.

On Monday December 14, 2020, the Petaluma Police Department received numerous public and media requests for information about an attempted kidnapping in Petaluma, as newly reported on social media by the same woman who came to the Petaluma Police Department on December 7th.  The woman provided another account of the event that included significant information that was not shared with the Petaluma Police Department on December 7th or before her video was posted to social media.  The new information included an assertion that the male who had followed her around the store and out to the car had approached the stroller and tried to grab it.

This new information, if true, could constitute an attempted child abduction, so accordingly, the Petaluma Police Department began an investigation into the matter due to its potentially serious nature and concern for community safety.  This included trying to locate security video from the store and surrounding businesses.  The store supplied in-store video footage showing the reporting party and her children in the store, along with a couple whose descriptions matched ones she had provided to the police on December 7th.

On the afternoon of December 14th, a Petaluma Police Department detective and officer re-interviewed the reporting party.  She was definitive that the couple approached her children’s stroller and that the male reached for it; she stated she would testify to that fact, and that she wanted the couple prosecuted. 

The reporting party was shown still photos taken from Michael’s security video of the couple and positively identified them as the same couple she had alleged  were trying to kidnap her children. 

In an effort to seek corroboration of this account, the Petaluma Police Department issued a press release advising the community of the incident and asking for members of the public with information or who witnessed the incident, to come forward.  This included a photograph of the couple, whose statements would needed to get  to more information regarding the alleged incident.

We received information about the identity of the couple and contacted with them via a private message to their social media.  They promptly responded, agreed to be interviewed, and have fully cooperated with the investigation.  While acknowledging they had shopped at Michael’s and were the couple shown in the photograph, they denied the allegations being made against them by the reporting party.

To date, the investigation has 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. 

This investigation is now considered closed, absent any additional evidence or corroborating statements from witnesses.

We want to acknowledge and thank the community for your patience as we diligently investigated this matter.  We know the safety our community is of the utmost importance to all of us.  As an organization we take reported crimes especially those involving children incredibly seriously and know that they demand a thorough investigation. Our officers and detectives methodically gather evidence and carefully evaluate all available information before reaching any conclusions or closing cases. We want to extend our appreciation to the businesses of the Redwood Gateway Shopping Center for providing video evidence and assisting our investigation.

Earlier Chapter

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Matt LaFever
Matt LaFeverhttps://mendofever.com/
I like to think of myself as a reporter for the Average Joe. Journalism has become a craft defined largely by city dwellers on America's coasts. It’s time to take it back. I have been an Emerald Triangle resident since 2006 and this is year ten in Mendocino County. Please, email me at matthewplafever@gmail.com if you know a story that needs to be told.

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