PETALUMA, Calif. - A Sonoma County woman says her children were the victims of an attempted kidnapping outside a Petaluma store.
“My children were the targets of attempted kidnap,” Katie Sorensen said in a video on Instagram that has garnered more than two million views. “I want to share that story with you in an effort to raise awareness.”
Sorensen told KTVU it happened Dec. 7 at the Michael's store in Petaluma, as she was shopping with her 4-year-old son and 1-year-old daughter.
She says a man and woman followed them in the store. The same man had looked at her in the parking lot. She then heard them describing what her kids looked like, possibly to a third person on the phone.
“I heard them talking about the features of my children, but I was totally paralyzed with fear,” Sorensen said. “I just couldn't bring myself to say anything.”
They waited in line behind her but then followed her into the parking lot after not buying anything. That's when she noticed a white van had parked right next to her SUV.
She thought that was strange because she usually parks far from a store entrance, not wanting to inconvenience people over the time it takes to load or unload her stroller.
The man and woman took two steps forward, then two steps back.
“Very awkward,” Sorensen said. “There is no other explanation as to why they were doing that besides they were just building the courage.”
Then the man reached out, as if to grab the stroller. But Sorensen said she saw an older man nearby.
“The gentleman looked at me, and his eyes were huge. He saw what was going on, and I just yelled for help,” Sorensen said.
The man and woman took off in a car. But that's when another rushed up to her from behind, after apparently getting out of the white van.
“And he acted like he was trying to help me and just got in the van and drove off,” she said.
Sorensen wishes she had been more assertive.
“I saw these people, they didn't look necessarily clean cut,” she said. “I felt uncomfortable around them, and instead of making them uncomfortable with my discomfort, I chose to remain in my discomfort.”
Child safety advocate Marc Klaas, whose daughter Polly was kidnapped in Petaluma and killed in 1993 said Monday, “This mom learned a very important lesson. What she learned is that she does have to trust her feelings, that she does need to be at the ready and she does need some kind of a plan of action.”
Petaluma police told KTVU on Monday that officers are investigating the incident but that so far, there is no evidence to arrest anyone for attempted kidnapping. The manager at the Michael’s store had no comment, and corporate officials did not respond to a request for information.