A teen prank Wednesday afternoon in the heart of downtown Kenai sent nearly a dozen police officers on a wild goose chase that spanned much of the central peninsula.
Two 18-year-old men apparently staged a fake abduction of a 17-year-old female accomplice at the intersection of the Kenai Spur Highway and Bridge Access Road purely for the shock value.
The girl apparently had her hands bound behind her with toy handcuffs and struggled to get away. After she was "forced" back into the car by one of the men, the trio sped away from the scene at around 3:30 p.m.
"She just flopped out of the car like a beached salmon in the traffic lane, acting like she didn't want to be there," said Kenai Police Sgt. Kim Wannamaker, relating the reports of witnesses. "It caused quite a stir and raised obvious concerns for that person's safety."
Witnesses to the "abduction" called the Kenai Police Department, which then enlisted the aid of Soldotna Police and Alaska State Troopers. Wannamaker said at least three troopers, one SPD and five KPD officers, as well as dispatchers running license plates and tracking down relatives, were involved. He did not have an estimate on what that cost.
"There were lot of man-hours expended," he said.
According to the troopers, the vehicle was spotted at the Kenai Pizza Hut after a 2 1/2-hour search. The report said, "(They) indicated that they were playing with toy handcuffs and didn't realize the outcome the incident had. No crime was committed."
Before the trio was found at the Pizza Hut, the police search extended from Captain Cook State Park, the Nikiski and Kenai beaches, through Soldotna, as far south as Kasilof.
"Basically, we thought we had a kidnapping in a moving vehicle. We had everyone looking in places someone might take an abducted female," Wannamaker said. "It was an intense search. Just let your imagination run wild where a young lady might be taken."
He said police tried to track down the owner of the vehicle by phone, and when they did not find him, it led them to believe "something heinous had happened."
Wannamaker said the trio was contacted by the troopers and no charges were filed, but he said the Kenai police would like to talk to them as well, which they planned to do Thursday afternoon or this morning.
"We'd like to talk to them face to face and see if they have an idea of the magnitude of their actions and the emotional impact on the officers and others," he said. "This is parallel to a false fire alarm."
Wannamaker said the incident is still under investigation by the KPD and declined to release the names of those involved.
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