(NEW YORK) — New York City police investigating an alleged abduction of a couple in Manhattan during broad daylight say the incident could have been an elaborate hoax.
Police have been pouring over surveillance video that captured a man with a plastic bag over his head and another wearing a mask charging around the corner Friday night in the Washington Heights section of New York City. Eyewitnesses reported seeing a woman screaming as she was forced into a minivan at gunpoint.
“Detectives are investigating the possibility that an incident Friday that appeared to be a gunpoint abduction in Manhattan’s 33rd Precinct may have been a hoax staged among friends to celebrate one of their birthdays,” NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said Sunday night.
Police have canvassed the neighborhood and posted flyers asking residents for help identifying the possible suspects and victims. Police say no one has filed a missing persons report.
The video captures a man and woman rounding the corner from West 173rd onto Haven Avenue shortly after 7 p.m. Eyewitnesses said the couple seemed nervous, looking over their shoulders just before the alleged abduction. The woman was reportedly carrying two heavy bags.
Seconds later, the two men were spotted running after the couple with a dark colored minivian right behind them, turning the wrong way down a one-way street with its doors open.
“It was a Chrysler, it was like a navy blue Chrysler and it turned down the one way and it pulled over and stopped and a couple of guys came out and picked up a girl, pushed her in the car,” eyewitness Jonethan Salas told ABC News affiliate WABC-TV.
Investigators say two young girls called 911 after seeing the woman screaming as she was forced into the minivan at gunpoint.
“In the beginning when she screamed, we were nervous, but… it seemed like they knew who’s car they was going into,” eyewitness Sandra Guzman said.
Minutes before the alleged abduction, Guzman told WABC she spotted three men camped out in a dark minivan and saw another peeking around the corner of the park, wearing a black mask over his eyes.
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Madison Park, Keith Allen and Andreas Preuss, CNN
David Williams, CNN
Susan Scutti, CNN