Two Big Rapids stores recently received separate complaints from women who said a man was following them while they shopped.
The reported incidents took place at the Big Rapids Meijer and Walmart Thursday, Aug. 23 and Saturday, Aug. 25. The reports were similar in description with each focused around a man who was not shopping, yet following each respective woman throughout their shopping trips. However, one woman has verified via photograph that it was not the same man in each incident.
“People had screenshot and sent me the photo and that’s not the same man that I saw, so it was two different men,” Metro-Detroit resident Jessica said, who asked to keep her last name private due to worries stemming from the incident. “I had crossed paths with this man a couple times near the produce and as I made my way to the hair care aisle around the corner, a woman approached me from behind.
“We were right in the entrance of the aisle and she said, ‘Ma’am, do you know the man behind me?’ At that point he was peering and leaning around the corner and looking right at us and as soon as I looked at him and said, ‘No, I don’t know him,’ he realized that I looked at him and that we were talking about him,” Jessica said. “He disappeared pretty quickly. The woman said, ‘He’s been following you around taking pictures of you.’”
According to Jessica, she then saw the man several more times pushing an empty cart throughout the store and that she felt he was there everywhere as she went throughout the store.
Ferris social work sophomore Becca Park similarly reported that during her trip at Walmart she noticed a man following her everywhere through the store, even as she changed checkout lines. Both incidents were reported to the management of each respective store, and subsequently to the police. Big Rapids Department of Public Safety (BRDPS) released a statement about the incidents via their Facebook page.
“BRDPS is aware of other uncorroborated reported information on Facebook concerning human trafficking and abduction related to this event. BRDPS does not have any reported abductions, attempted abductions or missing persons in relation to this complaint or any other complaint,” the post said in addition to encouraging citizens to report suspicious activity.
As for the investigation moving forward, Park said that’s unlikely to happen. “Pretty much what I’ve gotten back from the police is that they can’t do anything further because he didn’t touch or talk to me,” Park said.
In addition to reporting the incidents, both women posted Facebook posts about their experiences which were each shared several thousand times and garnered comments of both support and backlash.
“I ended up taking [the Facebook post] down because I had people commenting a lot of hurtful things because they thought I made it up because they’ve heard similar stories. I had someone say, ‘I hope he finds you’ and lots of hurtful things like that,” Park said.
Despite the hurtful comments they have received, both women say they’re glad they posted their stories to bring awareness to a potentially dangerous situation. BRDPS recommends anyone reporting suspicious activity call Meceola Central Dispatch at (231) 796-4811.