Religious Freak? Or Profiled Pedophile? Annoying, Either Way
I forgot I had a camera!
Religious freak or child snatcher?
If you had been in my situation, what would you have done?
Overreacting? Or Playing it Safe?
Have you ever gone into one of these 24-hour Walmart stores in the evening or late at night? Even if you never shop at Walmart, you may want to try this as a social experiment some time. What I mean is, there are some strange (and very stinky) people who visit Walmart late at night. In our area, you find a throng of Hispanic families bringing their infants and small children to the store at nine, 10, 11 o'clock at night. And unfortunately-- just as during that recent early evening my son talked me into going inside the small-store-swallowing supermart to look for a Halloween costume--sometimes you'll also find people trying to shove their religious beliefs down your throat. At least that's what the initial appearance was.
First, a note to my parents who will be reading this...Yes, I know you refuse to shop at Walmart because of how terrible their employee benefits conditions are. I agree, employees should not be screwed out of health and other benefits by such a monster of industry. Still, the reason why people shop there, especially in these difficult times, is because it is cheaper, plain and simple. And yes, mom, I do my best to avoid shopping there and rather choose Target or some other local shops. But when the Spirit Halloween Store is charging $40 for the same costume they offer at Walmart for $12, it's difficult to dig into my monthly food money to buy the same thing at such a marked up price. And anyway, we didn't buy it after all and I talked him into letting me make his costume this year.
The kids and I were in a small shop in the same shopping center as Walmart the other night. And after a quick jaunt through the dollar store, my son began selling the idea of going into Walmart at the other end of the parking lot to see if they had the costume he apparently couldn't live without. It was the weekend and the sun hadn't quite gone down at 7 p.m., but I figured we'd look fast and I'd get the kids home early enough before bedtime since the next day was a school day.
I should have realized, nothing moves fast in Walmart. Once you pass through those doors, it's like you've just entered another realm in space. Time moves at a different pace once you're trapped inside.
Before we could find anything, my daughter had to go to the bathroom. Unfortunately, the large bathroom at the front of the store was being cleaned and we were forced to race our way through the store's labyrinth to find the small bathroom at the rear of the building. There was already a line and Sophie couldn't hold it for much longer. Thanks to the kindness of some ladies, she made it onto the toilet just in time.
Then, we journeyed through store towards the Halloween section. It's amazing how many items will distract you from your goal as you walk through this giant store. When we had entered, I told Jesse to grab a basket.
"What do we need a basket for if we're just getting one thing?" he asked. You ladies out there know how silly that question is.
We finally made it to the costumes, but he didn't find one in his size. Then after touring the Halloween section to see this year's booty, we finally started our way back from the far side of the store, stopping along the way to check out another item.
As I stood two-thirds way down the isle narrowing my options from the numerous selections of a product, Jesse stood next to me, but I hadn't noticed Sophie was just around the corner looking at items sitting on an end cap.
It was then, I heard my 8-year-old stop humming; her frivolous sounds were replaced by a man's voice. He said something before asking, "Where are your parents?" That question and the cessation of her singing immediately attracted my attention and I looked around to see where Sophie had gone. The man was leaning over, reaching for her. The usual innocent expression on her face was transformed to one of concern and shy fear.
"Sophie, come here," I said sternly. The older man who was reaching for my small child had short, grey stubble hair with a receding hair line (sort of balding, but not quite). He was about 6-feet tall and thin; not scrawny, but trim without being buff. He wore a light-weight off-white vest that looked dirty over his plaid shirt and jeans. He was white.
He came over to me and tried to hand me something; a fake silver coin of some sort with blurry writing on the side showing.
"What is this?" I asked.
"Here, take it?" He said.
"What is this for?" I asked again.
He paused. It was some Christian thing, he explained before trying to preach some crap.
"No, we don't want that!" I was pissed. After seeing my reaction, my daughter placed the cross-embossed plastic coin on a shelf.
Here I am walking through a store and some religious freak is forcing more religious shit down throat. "And get away from my kids." I watched as he left and walked down the isle stopping to approach another child.
I went to find a store manager, a woman who had been walking down the main isle. I told her what was happening and described the creepy man's appearance. "No, he shouldn't be giving out religious stuff in the store and he shouldn't be approaching children." She and another man went to find the guy.
My kids and I head for the front to pay. We only had a few small items so we got in line at the forward express lane. Then, I turned to find the creepy guy standing in the checkout lane behind me where out of nowhere, he had a basket with some items. When I saw him, he gave me the stink eye.
"I need you to call your manager," I told the cashier. "Your manager was looking for that man," I pointed, "to get him to leave the store after he approached my 8-year-old daughter. Will you please call your manager?" I guess the cashier woman turned on her station light to attract the attention of a manager, but nobody came. As soon as I said something to the cashier, the guy took off his light vest; I assume to change his appearance.
He paid for his items before approaching me. He tried to intimidate me, but I responded by saying, "Keep your religious crap out of the store."
He responded by attempting to gain sympathy from the cashier by saying, "Do you hear what profanity comes out of her mouth?" It didn't work.
"Get away from me, you religious freak."
He began walking away and I said loudly so everyone around could hear, "You shouldn't be approaching young children!" He raced away as all the parents stared at him.
By this time, I was so upset, my hands were trembling. We went to the exit doors and realized it was dark outside. I thought about getting someone to walk us across the parking lot to our car, but opted to wait a minute or so before going outside. Our car was in a lit area in front of the other stores.
As we walked out, I saw the man walking ahead of us towards the same parking isle. He got into his compact blue car--I think it was a Hyundai--and began backing out. I wrote down the license plate number, he yelled at me and sped away out of the parking lot and down the road adjacent to the highway.
I called the police. I didn't want to wait in the parking lot at night, so I gave the police my information for an officer to call. I drove home, calling my husband along the way.
"Did you take a photo of the guy?" Mark asked.
"What the hell was I thinking? No, I was so upset, I completely forgot I had the camera in my phone."
"You could have taken a photo of him and his car." He was right.
As we talked on, my news director husband reminded me, the way this guy approached kids is like how many other pedophiles approach children. They use religion or other ploys to gain a child's trust before they snatch them, banking on the idea the kids have separated from their parents to look at something in another isle. Moreover, that Walmart is adjacent to the highway which provides a quick getaway for the criminal. Before the police have even arrived, the criminal has traveled a mile a minute down the highway stealing your happiness and your child's life.
Adding to this frightening scenario, I found out from police, the suspect's license came back as being registered to someone living about 200 miles away. Before you write off this guy as only being a religious zealot, remember the recent case of the Jaycee Dugard abduction...the guy drove a couple hundred miles away, grabbed the girl and took her back to his house and hidden backyard sound-proofed compound.
So, was I correct to turn this guy in and bring attention to what he was doing? I guess he just messed with the wrong momma.
In the end, the police hung around at the store for a while to see if he returned, but I heard nothing more after that.