By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News
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SEQUIM — City officials are considering whether charges will be filed against those suspected of staging a child's fake kidnapping at Carrie Blake Park, terrifying parents and children who thought the incident was real.
The staged abduction was reportedly to raise “kidnapping awareness” through a video posted on social media, according to a phone call made to the Sequim Police Department to warn officers of the prank a few minutes before two men enacted it.
Two twin brothers from Port Angeles posted a new video Tuesday evening and claimed responsibility for the event.
"We made this video to help prevent and to show how real an abduction can be," they said.
Sequim Police Chief Bill Dickinson, who was fielding calls Tuesday from Seattle television outlets about the Saturday incident, said that "at least two people" are under investigation.
The pranksters could be charged with dangerous conduct or with failing to obtain a temporary permit to fake the kidnapping at the park, Sequim City Attorney Craig Ritchie said Tuesday.
The permit likely would have led to traffic control in the area and signage warning park-goers the abduction was fake, Ritchie said.
One year in jail
Dickinson said that a conviction of dangerous conduct would require proof that the conduct of the fake kidnappers “created a substantial risk of death or serious physical injury to another person.”
Both crimes are misdemeanors that carry jail sentences of up to one year and maximum $5,000 fines.
Onlookers said a minivan with two masked men inside pulled up to parents and children at the park at about 5:30 p.m. Saturday.
A man jumped out, scooping up a 3- or 4-year-old boy later identified as the man's son.
The two men sped off while being chased by at least one parent, then returned to tell incensed onlookers the child was fine and the incident staged.
Witness Tiffany Barnett, who ran after the vehicle, said a woman at the park who identified herself as the boy's mother called it “a research report to see how the public would react.”
Those who engaged in the prank likely would not face charges of reckless endangerment or maintaining or permitting a nuisance, Ritchie said.
“You look at those, and you have to have a jury trial and proof beyond a reasonable doubt,” he said, adding that proving they intentionally committed those crimes is among the elements that would have to be proven at trial.
Other elements include intent.
Scaring people, Ritchie added, “typically is not a crime.”
Barnett said a video on a Facebook page belonging to Jason Holden of Port Angeles depicted events surrounding the incident.
Jason and his twin brother, Jeremy, have a YouTube page, TwinzTV, where they post videotaped pranks. Some are harmless, but others include fake store robberies, and kidnappings, apparently done to get a reaction from the public.
Both Holden brothers reportedly graduated from Port Angeles High School and operate a pawn shop in Tacoma. Both also identify themselves on their Facebook pages as being commercial divers.
Jeremy told KCPQ-TV, channel 13, that the child abduction video was not a prank and was made only to educate the public.
Both brothers have received plenty of angry posts on their Facebook page, and Jeremy told KCPQ that he regrets doing it.
“We didn't expect people to get that upset about it,” he told the TV station.
The video on the Jason's Facebook page showed one of the men in the van putting on a mask while driving a van and of the angry reaction of an adult at the park when they returned to tell onlookers that the entire incident was staged.
The video was removed, but other prank-related postings remained.
“I could have been killed and didn't even realize lol,” Jason wrote on the posting.
“Just goes to show all involved how easy it would be to snatch up a little blond-haired boy from the park. Kidnapping awareness: I'd die for the cause.”
A message to Jason sent by the Peninsula Daily News was not answered Tuesday.
Late Tuesday, a new video — http://youtu.be/UfDOGh9rhxs — was posted on the brothers' TwinzTV, labeled the "Child Abduction Prevention and Awareness Video."
It included footage from the original video, plus reaction to it, including the Peninsula Daily News' Tuesday front-page story on the event and reader reaction posted at its website.
With it was this posting, with links to the Holden brothers' Facebook pages:
"We made this video to help prevent and to show how real an abduction can be. We are sorry to who ever was at the park and had to be apart of it, we needed real reactions and didn't mean to harm anyone.
"We called the cops before hand to let them no what we were doing, unfortunately not all of them were notified. Don't worry the little boy is in on it!
"As a society, things are becoming more violent and crimes against children are continually increasing. In our efforts to prevent theses crimes we are not keeping up with the violence, abductions, and rapes being done to our children.
"This section of the home page will not reach as many of the parents and children that I would like it to, but if it helps at least one child so as not to become a statistic it will have done its job."
On Tuesday evening, Jeremy Holden's Facebook page had links to KCPQ's and KIRO-TV's video reports on the mock kidnapping.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.