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Fake child abduction at Washington playground infuriates parents

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A screengrab of a YouTube video of a staged kidnapping at a Washingston park. (YouTube)

When a masked man snatched a four-year-old boy perched on a bench at a Sequim, Wash., playground before taking off in a minivan, frantic parents trailed the getaway vehicle -- only to learn it was a hoax. The hoax infuriated onlookers.

Twin brothers, Jason and Jeremy Holden, say they staged the kidnapping last weekend to raise awareness about child abduction, according to local newspaper Peninsula Daily News.

But park-goers, distressed by what was later revealed to be a hoax, were livid over the stunt that was captured and uploaded to YouTube on Tuesday.

Titled Child Abduction Prevention and Awareness Video, a preamble advises parents to talk to children "frankly about abductions," before footage of the stunt plays.

WARNING: Video contains strong language

"We are sorry to whoever was at the park and had to be a part of it," the video description reads.

"We needed real reactions and didn't mean to harm anyone," adding they had notified local police prior to executing the stunt.

According to Today, the brothers are behind the YouTube channel TwinzTV, and say they film pranks and stunts. 

Parents at the park were not impressed to learn the kidnapping was a hoax when the video-makers returned to explain, which was also recorded.

"This is outrageous," said one woman.

"We thought we were making a movie as this positive [thing,] but we didn't think we were going to scare people like that," Jason Holden told the Peninsula Daily News.

He said after witnessing the fear the stunt spurred among parents and children at the park, he had a "bad taste in my mouth."

In an interview with Today, a mother who witnessed the stunt said her seven-year-old daughter was frightened. 

"I've never ran so fast in my adult life. I was absolutely bawling and I could not stop shaking," said Tiffany Barnett. "I was so scared for that little boy and what might happen to him."

"My daughter is still scared. She keeps asking, 'What if they take me?'" 

Jason Holden told Today that the boy is his nephew and that his mother gave permission.

"The boy ... was fully aware of what was going on and what we were going to do with him, he was not harmed in anyway," he said in an email statement. 

According to the Peninsula Daily News, the Holden twins, another brother who might have participated and the mother of the child will not face charges.

"Scaring the hell out of people is not, as far as I can determine, a crime," city attorney Craig Ritchie said.

The report says city law officials investigated whether criminal charges could be filed against the brothers for dangerous conduct or failing to obtain a temporary permit to film the stunt, but Ritchie said city codes do not require permits for filming and because no one was injured, a dangerous conduct charge would be difficult to pursue. 

He is expected to ask city council to alter its codes to require permits when using city property for filming. 

The Peninsula Daily News reported that the brothers are considering starting a fund for missing children's charities to make amends.

"They did a dumb thing and risked a whole slate of unnecessary problems, and I would hate to encourage this behaviour as an awareness-raising technique," Ritchie said. 

"But they did show that child abduction scares the hell out of people."

What do you think of the kidnapping stunt? Do you feel it would be effective or is it inappropriate?

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