The 19-year-old Michigan woman who posted a warning on Facebook about finding a shirt laid over her windshield was the victim of a “random prank,” the Flint Township Police Department said Wednesday.
On Feb. 16, Ashley Hardacre had just finished working at the Genesee Valley Mall in Flint and walked across the dark parking lot to her car – when she found a blue flannel shirt thrown over her windshield and tucked underneath a windshield wiper.
“There were two cars near me and one was running so I immediately felt uneasy and knew I couldn’t get out to get it off,” Hardacre explained on Facebook. “Luckily, I knew better than to remove the shirt with cars around me so I drove over to a place where I was safe and quickly rolled down my window and got the shirt off.”
She posted about the incident on Facebook and it quickly went viral, and was shared 100,000 shares. The original post has since been removed.
The post “led to numerous reports that this was a tactic being used by criminals to lure victims for purposes of human trafficking,” police said in a statement, according to Grand Rapids-based news website MLive.
Flint Township police later made contact with Hardacre and were able to track down two suspects with a vehicle description, MLive reported.
“As a result of these interviews, they admitted to putting the shirt on the vehicle as a random prank,” police said in a statement. “Also, interior video surveillance at the Genesee Valley Center corroborated their presence at the mall.”
Surveillance video showed the men were at the mall and had left more than an hour before she got to her car.
The men have since apologized for their actions and told police they had no idea that the prank could be construed as a human trafficking ploy, MLive reported.