The grainy black and white video showed a nightmarish scene in the Bronx.
A mother and her 16-year-old daughter were walking down a quiet street on Monday night when two men appeared and dragged the teenager into a vehicle.
New Yorkers were captivated for hours by the news on Tuesday, after an Amber Alert had been issued and video of the kidnapping spread online.
At first, there was good news: The girl, Karol Sanchez, had been found, unharmed.
Hours later, more disconcerting information surfaced: Karol confessed that it was all a hoax that stemmed from her difficult relationship with her mother, according to two police officials.
Shortly after she was found on Tuesday afternoon, Karol was questioned by officers from the 40th Precinct, where she admitted to setting up the kidnapping and then was released to her family. During the interview, one police official said Karol described her mother as “overprotective.”
The police are still determining whether she or the two men will face criminal charges.
The official said the family had been contemplating a move to their native Honduras, but that Karol was adamant she wanted to remain in the United States, which could have motivated her to stage the kidnapping.
Earlier on Tuesday morning, the police had released footage from a security camera near the scene and asked for the public’s help in solving the crime.
The police said the mother and daughter were out for a stroll on Monday night in the Melrose section of the Bronx when the sedan, occupied by four men clad in black, stopped in front of 745 Eagle Avenue. Two of the men, believed to be in their 20s, then got out of the vehicle and snatched the teenager.
When the mother tried to intervene, she was pushed to the ground, the police said. She was not seriously injured.
Reached by phone before Karol’s reappearance, an aunt said her niece, who lives with her mother in Dutchess County, N.Y., was in town for an appointment. The aunt, Idalmy Martinez, 56, said the family was desperately looking for answers.
“She is a very happy, calm person,” Ms. Martinez said. “She’s always with her mother. They are very close. She is always around us, her family.”
The original details of the supposed kidnapping were so shocking that the Police Department’s chief of patrol, Fausto Pichardo, had asked the public for help identifying the men and locating Karol. “Have you seen Karol Sanchez?” Chief Pichardo said on Twitter on Tuesday morning.
The police commissioner, Dermot Shea, also used Twitter to publicize the security camera video that captured the attack.
A woman who said she lived in the area recalled hearing an older woman scream for nearly 10 minutes at around 11:30 p.m. on Monday. The woman, Breanna Faulkner, 29, said she went outside to check out what was happening and encountered Karol’s mother, who was sobbing and screaming.
“It sounded like something out of a horror movie,” said Ms. Faulkner.
The mother was speaking in Spanish, so Ms. Faulkner found a neighbor who could help translate. Eventually, Ms. Faulkner said, she called 911 and the police arrived about 30 minutes later.
“Across our country and across the Bronx, across the city, black girls in particular are disappearing and no one seems to care,” the city’s public advocate, Jumaane Williams, told reporters. “We do want to know why the Amber Alert took so long.”
He added: “I know for a fact, the type of response that often comes too often depends on what that person looks like. No more. We love our children. It shouldn’t take 11-12 hours for an Amber Alert.”
Typically, in cases involving missing underage persons, local law enforcement agencies contact the New York State Police, who then issue an alert. It’s uncertain why in Karol’s case, the alert happened so much later after her disappearance.
Beau Duffy, a director of public information with the New York State Police, said the New York Police Department requested an Amber Alert be sent out at around 9 a.m. An hour later an Amber Alert was widely spread.
A local police department must determine that the minor abducted is in danger of being physically harmed, Mr. Duffy said.
The news of Karol’s disappearance had come just days after the deadly stabbing of Tessa Majors, a white Barnard College freshman, had made national news.
Ms. Majors was walking through Morningside Park in Manhattan last week when she was attacked by three people and stabbed several times, the police said. A 13-year-old boy implicated himself in the attack last week and is expected to face charges. The police said at least two other teenagers may have taken part in the crime.
At the time that the kidnapping was made public, it seemed natural for New Yorkers to connect the two crimes against the two young women.
Instead, the police are now trying to determine whether they’ll charge Karol with a crime.
Rebecca Liebson contributed reporting. Susan C. Beachy contributed research.