Police took time this week to publicly refute online rumors that a female martial arts expert fought off an attacker who was trying to abduct her in a Costa Mesa parking lot and then sell her into slavery in Mexico.
The Costa Mesa Police Department received a few concerned calls after the apparently fake story spread through a website called Nextdoor, which creates private social networks for neighborhoods nationwide.
In a Monday post on the Dover Shores Nextdoor, a resident of the Newport Beach neighborhood described a friend of a friend being attacked near Harbor Boulevard and Victoria Street in Costa Mesa.
The friend's friend supposedly crushed the attacker's Adam's apple, gouged his eyes and slammed his head repeatedly into the ground. This reportedly led to the man's apprehension when he got treatment for the injuries.
"Come to find out that the parking lots on this block have had several kidnapping attempts by a Mexican drug cartel who are kidnapping women and children and selling them as slaves in Mexico," the post continues.
Costa Mesa police said Wednesday they couldn't find anything to confirm the story.
In fact, detectives contacted the woman who posted the story and asked her to put them in touch with the source of her information.
Detectives tracked down the origin of the story, but, "That person doesn't want to contact us," Det. Sgt. Ed Everett said.
It's typical for the department to investigate if someone talks about criminal activity on social media, he said, but in this case, the incident probably didn't happen.
"Anyone can post anything they want on [social media]," Everett said.
Donna Barnhard-Swift, who lives in Mesa Verde, said the hoax spread to her Monday when a friend emailed it to her.
"Talk about alarming," she said, calling the rumor "bizarre."
She passed the story on to a few friends before learning it wasn't true.
"To me, I thought this seemed like a false kind of thing, but I wanted to get into it and figure it out," she said.
On Tuesday, an update appeared on the Dover Shores Nextdoor site from the woman who first shared the story.
"I should have checked with the police [department] first before posting this," it said, in part. "I just wanted to look out for the safety of others. I cannot believe someone would make something up this horrible."