When witnesses told authorities they saw several men in white plastic jumpsuits grab and restrain three children in an Olympia park and put them in the back of a red truck, they thought they were witnessing a kidnapping. But what they actually saw was an "elaborate hoax," according to the Washington State Patrol.
The apparent abductors and victims were all members of the same family and their friends participating in "a scavenger hunt" they had turned into an "escape room-style kidnapping," according to a statement from the Washington State Patrol.
"The family believed the prank would be a fun opportunity for the family and didn't realize the serious implications it would bring," the Washington State Patrol said in the statement.
The incident took place around 10:30 p.m. at Heritage Park in Olympia on Wednesday, according to police. Interviews with family members revealed that they had planned the "elaborate" hoax for three weeks, authorities said.
According to the Washington State Patrol, a 17-year-old led two children ages 11 and 15 years old to Heritage Park on Wednesday night, where six adults were hiding in the bushes. The adults ranged in age from 20 to 28 years old.
"When the children arrived, the adults jumped out and began to restrain the youngest children before placing them in the back of the family’s red Ford truck. A witness nearby called 911," the Washington State Patrol said in its statement.
When a state trooper arrived at the park, the group had already left, authorities said.
Someone involved with the hoax then called to tell detectives that their family was involved in the incident, authorities said.
"Based on the tip, detectives were able to locate the vehicles used and positively ID all the suspects and alleged victims. Everyone, including multiple minors, were found safe," the Washington State Patrol said. It took WSP about ten hours to resolve the case from the time they were first alerted, police said.
In total, six members of one family and two additional family friends carried out the hoax, authorities said.
The Washington State Patrol said its investigation is being sent to the Thurston County prosecutor’s office for charging considerations.