A Bosnian immigrant who told police she was dragged from her car, attacked, and left unconscious by a group of black teens while driving in St. Louis, Missouri, made up the story, police said Monday.
Seherzada Dzanic's claim of being confronted by the teens came just days after a Bosnian man was beaten to death in the same neighborhood.
Despite assurances at the time that the beating death of 32-year-old Zemir Begic appeared to be a random act, Dzanic's claim a few days later stoked fears in the Bosnian immigrant community that it was being targeted.
Begic, a Bosnian immigrant, was driving in the Bevo Mill neighborhood when a group of teenagers carrying hammers approached his car and began striking it, leading to a confrontation that left him severely beaten. He was pronounced dead at St. Louis University Hospital later that night.
Days later, on Dec. 5, Dzanic told police she too was driving in Bevo Mill when one of three black teens pointed a gun at her and ordered her out of the car.
According to her original account, the teens then smashed her cell phone and threatened to kill her because she was Bosnian. Instead, the assailants pushed Dzanic to the ground and fled. She was later found unconscious by a passerby, she told police.
The allegations sparked a hate crime investigation that included the FBI and enflamed fears in the Bosnian community. Her mother even gave interviews to the local media, saying she feared for her family's safety.
But after a nearly two-week investigation, police on Monday said Dzanic staged the entire incident.
St. Louis police arrested Dzanic on suspicion of filing a false police report after surveillance video footage from a nearby store showed no one was ever near her stopped car until a passing driver saw her in the street.
When confronted with the information, police say Dzanic admitted that she was suffering emotional issues, prompting her to fabricate the story.
Dzanic was booked and released pending a warrant for her arrest, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. Filing a false police report is a misdemeanor.
Jason Wells is a news editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.
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