Petaluma deserves transparency in Michaels kidnapping case

Communication is a concern in a high profile case

Almost a week had passed since Sonoma resident Katie Sorensen said she was harassed to police and Sorensen, a social media influencer with thousands of followers, decided to spread the allegations. of attempted kidnapping in two, disturbing videos posted on his Instagram account.

In the days that followed, the Petaluma Police Department did not give enough thought to Sorensen’s initial allegations to alert the community of potential kidnappers who allegedly stalked Sorensen and her two children on December 7, 2020, in the craft store. Michaels and the parking lot. on North McDowell Boulevard.

But as Sorensen’s December 13 video gained traction, reaching 4 million views and garnering national media attention, police issued a Nixle Alert, accompanied by a grainy photo of the suspects – Sadie and Eddie Martinez, the unwitting “kidnappers” who searched for a decorative baby Jesus for Christmas in the same Michaels store.

In the days that followed, police not only admitted that their investigation found no evidence that the Martinez sought to kidnap Sorensen’s children, but in a follow-up from Nixle, they said “the evidence gathered had served to support the narrative provided by the couple in the store. . “

But in the five months since the allegations rocked Petaluma and targeted one of our local families, there has still been no public statement about the innocence of that family, and an effort to to hold account for what many see as a racially motivated false report remains. stuck at the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office.

A phone message and email left at this office was not returned this week, an unfortunate but appropriate development that addresses one of our main concerns in this case: there needs to be more transparency and communication. about this high profile and highly sensitive investigation.

In their first media interview since finding themselves at the center of a whirlwind of unwanted attention, the Martinez said they always feel their eyes on them in public.

“People definitely recognize us now,” Sadie told Argus-Courier reporter Kathryn Palmer. “Once you go through something like this, you think everyone is looking at you and judging you. It’s uncomfortable.

But while Sadie and Eddie have had to live with this reality since they were placed in the national limelight five months ago, the other parties involved have gone about their business.

Sorensen, who deleted her videos on December 14 after police found inconsistencies in her story, changed her social media account settings to “private,” but not before her mother-centric Instagram account was grew to nearly 80,000 subscribers out of around 6,000 as a result of the attention.

The Petaluma Police Department took the photo of Sadie and Eddie, explaining in an email Wednesday that the photo and publication was no longer needed after the two men were identified and questioned.

“Our approach to this matter has been very careful so as not to draw premature conclusions without evidence to support those conclusions,” Deputy Chief Brian Miller said in an email Wednesday. “This process… has been thought through, deepened and communicated to all parties involved.”

But police have yet to make clear the inconsistencies between Sorensen’s Dec. 7 statements at Petaluma Police Headquarters and her lengthy Instagram videos a week later, when a still-shaken Sorensen shared the story from the front seat of his car.

In a telephone interview on Wednesday afternoon, Miller said Sorensen did not initially allege the couple attempted to kidnap their children, but simply that they followed her into the store.

The district attorney’s office has yet to acknowledge that it is considering the matter, let alone whether it will consider filing a complaint in the case, which was handed over by Petaluma police in the weeks following l ‘incident.

In many cases, this approach can work well. Our local police department responds to dozens of calls every day. District Attorney Jill Ravitch’s office processes thousands of cases each year. But our communities of color have seen their faith in law enforcement shaken, both nationally and locally. The first step in rebuilding trust must come from transparency, especially in cases like this.

We don’t know if Sorensen had a legitimate fear for the safety of his children on Monday morning at Michaels. Whether her decision to post a video was an effort to gain sympathy and support, increase her subscribers, or really raise awareness about an issue she found serious enough to warrant a police report is unknown to us. But we do know she told police the week before that she didn’t want to press charges. We know the video and the police report don’t match.

And we know it: A local family has been forever marred by allegations that the police cannot be proven. We know these parents can’t hide from this episode. And we know our public institutions shouldn’t either.

About Julius Southworth

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