Nicole lives in a very family-friendly town in Texas — a town that she says families flock to. But after she and her daughter were stalked and approached at a store, she questioned whether any place can be totally safe. Fortunately, her story has a happier ending than that of a Florida girl who was abducted from a Walmart and was later found dead.
Nicole took her 20-month-old daughter to a discount store to pick out a few necessities, but after she parked, she noticed that a BMW pulled up and parked close by, as if they were waiting for someone. Since there were plenty of parking spaces closer to the store, it immediately aroused her suspicions. She was further disturbed when the car then circled the parking lot twice, both times slowing down as it passed her, before finally parking the next row over.
It was this feeling that made her keep her daughter closer than usual as she moved through the store. But again, she noticed something unusual — an older man who was also "browsing," but seemed to be keeping a close eye on the pair. As they approached the checkout stand, he walked up and began asking questions about the little girl. "How old is she?”"he asked. Other questions were, "Is she your only child?" and, "What is her name?"
"I lied about all her details since the hairs on the back of my neck were standing up, and I quickly grabbed her to get to the checkout stand," she remembers. They went through the only checkout line that was open and exited the store. To her dismay, the same man was now sitting in the BMW she had seen earlier, having abandoned his items in the store in an apparent attempt to watch the pair again. When he drove up to talk with her, telling her how beautiful her daughter was and that she should have more children, she told him to have a good day, closed the door and drove away. She later called the non-emergency police line with as many details as she could remember.
Nicole credits her awareness and instinct for keeping her child safe. "Nothing about this situation was normal," she tells us. "He came into the store and circled around us, then had two items in his hand that he surrendered to be in his car to wait for us outside." She says that even though she tried to rationalize and explain everything, she was still seriously alarmed.
She said that her brother, who is a police officer in another state, gave her a few tips on what parents can do if they are ever in this situation. Many moms carry cell phones equipped with cameras — use it, if you can, to take a photo of a suspicious person and/or his vehicle. Call 911 — even if your situation doesn't seem like an emergency — so police can look at store video, take a statement and even escort you home. If you're in a parking lot, go back into the store if possible or drive to a busy area.
Most of all, Nicole says that parents should always be aware. "Just because we think an area is safe and kid-friendly, it doesn't mean it's not a predator's Disneyland," she shares. She recommends always being aware of your surroundings, and notes that if she had been looking at her phone or otherwise distracted, she might not have noticed the stranger eyeballing her child.
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