Police search for Walmart stalker
Police are searching for a man who posed as security, then stalked and harassed an 11-year-old girl at Walmart over the weekend.
Det. Bryan Reeves with the Waynesville Police Department said the man, who appears to be in his mid-40s to early 50s, arrived at the store around 3 p.m. Saturday with an elderly woman.
The two went their separate ways, with the man walking directly to the toy and bicycle aisle, Reeves said.
While there, the man began slowly rearranging merchandise and boxes in the toy aisle until he eventually created a private, blocked off area.
When customers walked down the aisle, the man simply walked away until people cleared out, and then went back to work, Reeves said.
When he finished, he began following an 11-year-old girl around the toy section.
After stalking her for about 30 minutes, he pulled the girl aside posing as a Walmart security guard and told her she was suspected of stealing.
He then pushed her into the makeshift room, asked her personal questions and told her to remove her clothing to search for stolen items.
“He had her pulled aside for 4 to 5 minutes before letting her go after she refused to comply,” Reeves said.
Although he did not remove the girl from the store, the act of restraining her and not allowing her to move around freely is considered kidnapping, said Lt. Chris Chandler.
The girl immediately told her mother about the incident, who reported it to police.
Reeves said the man’s behavior, such as arranging the merchandise to block the other people from seeing the girl, suggests he may be a repeat offender.
“To me, this means he’s done it before — he planned it and he’s gotten away with it,” Reeves said.
So far, though, no one else has come forward about a similar incident, but Chandler said he hopes the public can help the department identify the suspect.
"This is a parent’s ultimate nightmare," Chandler said.
But, he added, it's also an example of the danger that could always be present, even in Haywood County.
"This case demonstrates to parents the importance of teaching your children what to do in this type of situation. The adult was the bad guy. The child was the hero because the child said ‘No’ and she stood her ground. She was very brave and is an example to all of us," he said.
The man appears to be about 240 pounds and overweight, 5 foot 8 inches, with a moustache, dark hair and a bald spot on top of his head. He was wearing a blue button up shirt with a white undershirt and blue jeans.
The woman that he arrives and leaves with is described as being about 70 with short dyed red hair and glasses. She was wearing a matching green shirt and pants with a red turtleneck shirt underneath, white tennis shoes and carrying a red purse.
The two left with two small purchases. The man walked out of the store first, followed by the woman, and they drove away in what police believe is a 2000 silver Chevy Tahoe.
Reeves said anyone with any information about the suspects or their whereabouts should call the Waynesville Police Department at 828-456-5363.