Santana Renee Adams, 24, falsely accused 56-year-old Egyptian engineer Mohamed Fathy Hussein Zayan of allegedly attempting to abduct her five-year-old daughter from an Old Navy in a mall in West Virginia.
On April 1, police received a frantic phone call from Adams while she was still in the mall. She reported that Zayan had grabbed her daughter by the hair and attempted to drag her away and he only stopped when she pulled out a gun and threatened to shoot him. It was only then that he ran away, she said.
Police responded immediately. When they arrived, she did have a gun in her pocket. They found the engineer in the mall food court having a meal and arrested him on the spot. Zayan faced felony charges of attempted kidnapping and was held on a $200,000 bond.
Santana Renee Adams wasted no time releasing a statement to the local media, stating: “I’m thankful I was prepared to protect my daughter regarding a situation that could have been worse.”
The woman, who garnered unwavering support on social media, has recanted the story and has now been arrested.
Because the details of the alleged abduction were so sketchy, police even alluded to the fact that this was a “cultural misunderstanding” and perhaps Zayan had just patted the child’s head and smiled, and had not yanked her hair and tried to abduct the girl, as Adams claimed. But even a pat on the head wouldn’t warrant a felony kidnapping charge and he still wasn’t released from jail.
Barboursville Police explained: “During the interview with the female witness, detectives discovered more inconsistencies to the original statement. Female witness (mother of the child) eventually told detectives that she might have misjudged the suspect’s actions, overreacted to the uninvited touching of her daughter, and misinterpreted the intentions of the male suspect. The more she thought about it, the more she realized it might have been a cultural misunderstanding and that the suspect might have just been patting her daughter on the head and smiling.”
That subsequent account sparked incredulous outrage.
Police eventually found, via surveillance footage, that Zayan had never been in contact with the two at all. Adams finally confessed to fabricating the entire story. This was after the engineer had already been charged and his face plastered all over the news while being labeled “a kidnapper.”
Mohamed Fathy Hussein Zayan had been working in the area and was scheduled to return home to Egypt before the mall incident took place. Charges were dropped, some three days later but the damage had already been done. His innocence was never given the benefit of the doubt by police.
Adams is white and Zayan is a brown man from a Muslim country. Barboursville, West Virginia is a town of about 4,000 people. The population is 93% white, 6% Black, less than 1% Asian with no Latinos or other foreign ethnicities.
And, although people around the country were quick to label Adams a “racist,” Barboursville police still gave the impression that Adams’ actions weren’t malicious.
Even Barboursville Mayor Chris Tatum said: “I said, I hope you know that we’re going on information that we received. We felt like it was good information at that point and it’s sad that one person is responsible for making this whole incident happen. Please don’t think that’s indicative of how Barboursville is.”
But it wasn’t the actions of one person. An entire police department stood behind this travesty of justice.
He also credited social media with helping police point out the lies in Adams’ tale.
In my small town yesterday, an Egyptian man patted a 5yr old child on the head at the mall. Mom pulls a GUN & he’s now in jail for attempted kidnapping. Today, she admits that she lied. Had he been white, this wouldn’t have happened. Please share this! 🙏https://t.co/2O4OuB05Ie
— She (still) Persisted!! (@AprilEdwardss) April 2, 2019
A child being abducted is a parent’s worst nightmare. And under normal circumstances, all of these actions would have been absolutely appropriate and praiseworthy. An estimated 800,000 children go missing every year, according to the FBI. And this situation, undoubtedly, seemed extraordinary especially because West Virginia has one of the lowest rates of child abduction in the nation and it typically finds the missing child.
This case, however, is not only shocking but had a little more investigating been done, the arrest wouldn’t have happened. When Barboursville police officers arrived on the scene, there were no corroborating witness accounts.
They solely went off Santana Renee Adams’ word that Zayan tried to take her daughter. Not one of the officers took the time to think critically in this situation.
There were major red flags in the beginning. Why would Zayan have a meal in the mall if he had just had a gun pulled on him? If he ran away from the scene, why would he stay in the mall where he could be identified?
Adams has been charged with filing a false emergency report. A magistrate judge set her bail at $20,000. The charge carries up to six months in jail and a $500 fine.