The mother and daughter were walking down a rainy street in the Bronx on Monday night when a sedan slowly rolled up beside them and stopped. Two men sprang out of the car, grabbed 16-year-old Karol Sanchez and shoved her inside.
The scene was captured on a grainy security camera video police shared Tuesday after issuing an Amber Alert and a $2,500 reward for tips on the girl’s disappearance.
By midday, police announced Sanchez had been found, unharmed, not far from the corner where she disappeared. Officials quickly declared victory in the investigation.
But hours later the case took yet another turn: Sanchez had apparently faked the whole thing, according to local media.
Citing police officials, the New York Times and CBS New York reported Tuesday evening that Sanchez orchestrated the kidnapping because she was upset with her mother.
A New York Police Department spokeswoman declined to comment on the reports Tuesday evening. It was not immediately clear if Sanchez or the men who pulled her off the street will face charges.
The bizarre chain of events was met with a mix of relief and frustration, as shock over her disappearance gave way to questions about whether the alleged hoax would undermine other searches for missing children.
The city was also shaken last week by the fatal stabbing of an 18-year-old freshman from Barnard College. Police said Tessa Majors was killed Wednesday night during an armed robbery in a park near campus in Manhattan’s Morningside Heights neighborhood. A 13-year-old boy has been charged with felony murder in connection with her death.
Sanchez disappeared around 11:20 p.m. Monday as the mother and daughter were walking along Eagle Avenue, near East 156th Street in the Bronx’s Melrose neighborhood.
As of Tuesday night, police had not disclosed how they located Sanchez or said whether they had identified any suspects.
New York Police Department Deputy Inspector Robert M. Gallitelli said in a tweet that police were grateful “to all who have worked very hard to track down the people involved in this case.”
“WE HAVE A VICTORY TODAY,” Gallitelli wrote. “Karol Sanchez has been located in the Bronx, she is safe and unharmed.”
“Thank you to the men and women of the NYPD for their quick work — and to every single New Yorker who came forward with information,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) tweeted Tuesday.
Video posted Tuesday afternoon showed police reuniting a tearful Sanchez with her family, with news cameras hovering nearby. She and her relatives didn’t comment as officers escorted them away.
She’s alive! Karol Sanchez was just dropped at a park near where she was kidnapped last night, then the 16 yr old walked up street where police were posted. She was reunited w her family. No details on what happened, she appears to be ok, emotional reunion! @abc7ny #abc7ny pic.twitter.com/NusfkJlFV2— Kemberly Richardson (@kemrichardson7) December 17, 2019
Carmen Sanchez, 36, refused medical treatment after she was pushed to the ground, a spokesman for the New York Police Department told The Washington Post. She described the vehicle to police as a beige four-door sedan that stopped in front of 745 Eagle Ave. before fleeing eastbound after the incident. In addition to the two men who snatched Sanchez’s daughter, two other men were in the car and were described as young-looking, possibly in their mid-20s, and wearing dark-colored clothing.
The mother and daughter are from Poughquag, N.Y., roughly 60 miles north of the Bronx, and were in the city for a doctor’s appointment earlier Monday, NBC New York reported.
City officials tweeted out the alerts Tuesday morning calling for help to bring Sanchez home.
“To Karol Sanchez’s family and loved ones, know that the NYPD will not rest until she’s found — and her kidnappers are brought to justice,” de Blasio wrote.
New York State Police activated an Amber Alert for the teen’s kidnapping at 10 a.m. Tuesday. State police were not part of the ongoing investigation, but the agency is responsible for issuing the alerts, state police spokeswoman Kristin Lowman told The Post.
“Our special victims unit evaluates [an agency’s call] to decide if they should activate an alert,” Lowman said. Amber Alerts are activated in New York only in cases in which a minor is abducted and “believed to be in danger of serious bodily harm or death,” according to the state police’s Amber Alert criteria.
Sanchez was described as 5-foot-5 and weighing about 150 pounds. Police said the girl was wearing a blue bubble jacket, a white undershirt, blue jeans, black sneakers and a white backpack when she was abducted.
Destiny David, a family friend, described Sanchez as coming from a close-knit Honduran community.
“We all know each other,” David told the New York Times. “We don’t know why they took her. We just want her to be found soon.”