Two teens identified as Ava Coleman, 17 and Christopher Jones Kratzer, 19, have been charged by the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office with felony counts for raising a false public alarm and misdemeanour counts of reckless conduct all in a bid to increase their YouTube followers.
According to the report by Forsyth County News, on Wednesday, July 3, the two teens allegedly staged an elaborate prank that they intended to film and upload to social media, in which Coleman would be tied up in the back seat of an SUV screaming for help as the vehicle circled through the shopping centre’s parking lot.
Forsyth County News also reported that at approximately 6 p.m. on Wednesday, the Forsyth County 911 dispatch centre began receiving multiple calls from people at The Collection who witnessed the incident and believed that it was an active abduction. Callers stated that the female’s hands appeared to be bound by either handcuffs or zip ties, while her head was covered by what appeared to be a pillowcase.
Reports state that the vehicle was driven by a Hispanic male, and the woman was heard yelling, “He is going to kill me.” Sheriff’s Office spokesman Cpl. Doug Rainwater said.
Rainwater said that eight Forsyth County patrol cars were quickly dispatched to the scene, along with five officers from the Johns Creek Police Department and an off-duty Gwinnett County Police Officer that was already in the area.
From sightings of the vehicle’s tag numbers, officers were able to track the vehicle to its registered owner, a man who allegedly told deputies that his daughter had taken the vehicle with his permission to do a prank. With the man’s help, officers were able to locate and perform a felony traffic stop of the SUV in the parking lot of the John’s Creek United Methodist Church on Medlock Bridge Road.
Authorities said their investigation revealed the pair “were filming a kidnapping prank for a YouTube channel video … to gain more followers.” The Sheriff’s Office said the stunt “falsely alarmed the public creating apprehension and panic that caused members of the public to feel unsafe and to report it to law enforcement.”
Coleman and Kratzer have been charged with reckless conduct and raising a false public alarm, deputies said. Each was booked at the Forsyth County Jail.
“If you want to create a social media following, I would strongly dissuade you from this stupidity,” Sheriff Ron Freeman said in a statement, adding that “well-armed citizens might have been justified in using force to stop what they legitimately believed was a kidnapping.”
“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,” Rainwater said.
Even though the situation ended without harm coming to the officers, suspects or civilians, Rainwater said that with a felony traffic stop, where suspects are ordered out of their vehicle at gunpoint, someone could have easily been injured or killed.
“So many things could have gone wrong,” he said. “We truly thought that there was a kidnapping in process.”
Rainwater said that Coleman surrendered herself to the Sheriff’s Office on Friday, July 5 and was released shortly after on bond.
Kratzer is being held in the Forsyth County Jail under no bond for allegedly violating the terms of his probation during the incident.
Previously, Kratzer was arrested by the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office in April of 2018 after he damaged five vehicles by throwing blocks of wood and other objects out the window of his vehicle at passing cars. He later pleaded guilty to six counts of criminal damage to property and was sentenced to nine years of probation and 200 hours of community service.