An 11-year-old Florida girl was arrested after she falsely texted authorities that her friend had been kidnapped by an armed man. She later confessed the prank was part of a YouTube challenge.
The girl texted 911 on Wednesday morning to say her friend, 14, had been abducted by “an armed male driving a white van on South I-95 in Oak Hill,” the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release. The girl said she was following the van in a blue Jeep. NBC News is not identifying the 11-year-old because she is a minor.
A sheriff's dispatcher advised the sheriff's office at 9:45 a.m. of a “suspicious incident reported by text message.”
The 11-year-old texted updates for the next hour and a half — describing the male suspect and saying he had a gun.
Deputies responded, along with help from the sheriff's office aviation unit and officers from Edgewater, New Smyrna Beach and Port Orange, to search for the suspect vehicle — but no van was found.
At about 10:30 a.m., deputies tracked the cellphone that was texting 911 to a home in Port Orange. At the home, they spoke with the girl's father, who said she was inside with her family.
“As deputies approached the girl, she was holding her cell phone, which was ringing as she walked out to meet the deputies. When answered, Volusia Sheriff’s Dispatch was on the line and deputies verified they were on scene,” the sheriff's office said.
She told deputies she was inspired to prank 911 through a "YouTube challenge" and thought it "would be funny."
The child was charged with making a false police report concerning the use of a firearm in a violent manner, a felony, and misuse of 911, a misdemeanor.
The sheriff's office shared a snippet of body camera video showing the girl with her hands cuffed behind her back, with her face blurred. In the clip, the girl says shakily: “I’m not going to do this again.”
She was transported to the Family Resource Center for processing and then transferred to the Volusia Regional Juvenile Detention Center, officials said. It was not immediately clear whether she has a lawyer.
Sheriff Mike Chitwood condemned the prank as “dangerous” and warned parents about the importance of monitoring their kids’ social media use.
“We’re going to investigate every incident, but today it wasted valuable resources that might have helped someone else who legitimately needed our help," he said.