Two Georgia teens who faked a kidnapping to get YouTube followers are now facing felony charges. Ava Coleman, 17, and Christopher Kratzer, 19, were arrested by the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office (FCSO) after terrified shoppers at a local mall thought they were witnessing the young woman’s kidnapping.The pair have each been charged with one count of felony Raising a False Public Alarm and a misdemeanor count of Reckless Conduct.“Our initial investigation revealed that Mr. Kratzer and Ms. Coleman were filming a kidnapping prank for a YouTube channel video. Yes, that’s right for a social media channel to gain more followers?” The FCSO wrote on their Facebook page.Here’s what you need to know about Ava Coleman and Christopher Kratzer’s hoax hostage scheme.
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1. Horrified Shoppers Thought They Were Witnessing a Kidnapping
The kidnapping hoax took place at The Collection, in Cumming, Georgia.
On July 3, the Forsyth County 911 dispatcher began receiving calls around 6 p.m. about a possible kidnapping at The Collection, an outdoor shopping mall in Cumming, Georgia. Cumming is a community that’s part of metropolitan Atlanta.Witnesses said they saw a female teenager who war> tied up and whose head was covered with what appeared to be a pillowcase in a Chevy Tahoe. The girl was screaming, “HE’S GOING TO KILL ME.” The teens later told deputies their plan was to film shoppers who saw Coleman tied up in the back seat of the SUV screaming for help as the vehicle went through the shopping center’s parking lot. Once home, they would upload the video to YouTube and hoped to get a large following.2. Eight Patrol Cars Were Dispatched to Rescue Coleman
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Eight patrol cars were dispatched to the scene to rescue the young woman, later identified as Ava Coleman. According to the FCSO Facebook page, more than half the contingent of the department’s South Forsyth deputies were deployed to the scene. Patrol cars were traveling at high rates of speed, hoping to intercept Coleman’s “abductor.” They had their lights and sirens on as they searched for the perpetrator’s vehicle.“For 20 straight minutes, we had deputies racing across Forsyth County to help this girl, thinking that this was a true abduction,” Sheriff’s Office spokesman Cpl. D Doug Rainwater,” told the Forsyth County News. “That’s unacceptable.”3. Coleman’s Father Knew She Was Going to Play A “Prank”
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YouTube Kidnapping Hoax Lands Teens In Big Trouble | Patch PM https://t.co/Ekn5WTBJO1 pic.twitter.com/MGcQ4NTLEb
— Lilburn Patch (@LilburnPatch) July 9, 2019
Sheriff’s deputies were able to track down the vehicle’s owner after witnesses provided the car’s license plate. The owner said he had given his daughter permission to use the car and that she’d told him she was going to play a prank. It’s unknown if Ava’s father was aware of her plan to stage a fake kidnapping as a YouTube prank.With her father’s help, police were able to make a felony traffic stop and apprehend Coleman and Kratzer in the parking lot of the John’s Creek United Methodist Church. The Chevy Tahoe was pulled over by an off-duty Gwinnett County police officer who had heard about the suspected abduction and went to help. “Johns Creek Police joined in on the stop which had crossed into their city limits and FCSO responded to the location as well.”According to Rainwater, a felony traffic stop involves deputies commanding all suspects out of a vehicle at gunpoint. “So many things could have gone wrong,” he told the Forsyth County News.Coleman surrendered herself to the Sheriff’s Office on July 5 and was released on bond shortly after. Kratzer remains in jail without bond for charges relating to previous crimes.4. Kratzer Has a Previous Arrest Record That Includes “Terroristic Incidents”
This was not the first time Kratzer has had run-ins with the law. In addition to the currenty charges, Kratzer also faces one count of violating his felony probation. In March 2018 the Suwanee, Georgia teen was charged with seven counts of criminal damage to property and five counts of terroristic threats and acts after he threw various objects, including four-by-four blocks of wood, and glass paperweights at passing cars. Witnesses said Kratzer was in a blue car, hurling the items at vehicles coming from the opposite direction. Five vehicles suffered damage. He was placed on probation for nine years and given 200 hours of community service. The Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office credited community tipsters and investigative work for Kratzer’s arrest.In 2017 he was charged with theft, felony robbery that was later dismissed and underage alcohol possession.There are no known prior arrests for Coleman.5. Police Fear Pranks like These Make Witnesses Hesitant to Call
Hoax kidnapping in Chesterfield, Virginia in May 2018
Further investigation into the case has been turned over to the FCSO’s Major Crimes and Hi-Tech Crimes unit detectives. Law enforcement has expressed concern that people who witnessed the prank will be embarrassed or hesitant to step forward and report other possible crimes, belieivng they might also be hoaxes.Several other people have attempted similar pranks and landed in jail. In 2018, five people confessed to staging a fake abduction outside of a Walmart in Chesterfield, Virginia to get more social media followers. In 2017, Thelma Williams of Hamilton, Ohio, faked her own kidnapping to get attention.Police are also concerned Good Samaratins might use deadly force in such circumstances. “If you want to create a social media following, I would strongly dissuade you from this stupidity, good armed citizens might have been justified in using force to stop what they legitimately believed was a kidnapping. Committing a criminal act for social media likes will get you arrested in Forsyth County, that’s not the kind of attention most people want to have” Sheriff Ron Freeman said.