PROVO, Utah – An elderly man is under investigation by the Utah County Sheriff’s Office and banned from an Eagle Mountain grocery store, after a disturbing interaction with a group of teen girls this week.
Other community members are now coming forward saying they, too, have dealt with this same man and his behavior at various places in the area– and they want it to stop.
Photos from Ridley’s in Eagle Mountain Wednesday show an older man with a mask around his chin, riding around in a motorized scooter.
In a video sent to FOX 13, a teen girl walks up to her friend and says, “He just tried to grab my hand again.”
The man is seen talking to a woman. Eventually the girls run and call 911.
Sergeant Spencer Cannon said the man grabbed a girl’s arm and started implying what he wanted to do with the group of young teens.
“I know that he said about Mexico, that he wanted to go there because the rules about what he could do with girls there, their age, in Mexico are different than they are here– the laws,” Cannon said.
What the man implied he wanted to do, Cannon added, would be illegal in the US.
“I don’t know exactly what he intended, but what he talked about was scary,” he said.
The Sheriff’s Office responded and spoke to the man, who is seen in pictures talking to a deputy outside next to his red truck. It turns out, Cannon said, that this man has been banned from other places before.
“There’s at least one other place over in American Fork that he was trespassed from,” he explained.
As soon as news of the incident started circulating around the Eagle Mountain and Saratoga Springs community– a man in a red truck approaching teens on a motorized scooter in stores– others started recounting eerily similar incidents.
“As soon as I read that post and I saw the picture in the comments, I immediately recognized him,” one mother said. “It was the same gentlemen, the same face, the same hat.”
The woman, who wanted to keep her identity private, said an elderly man on a motorized cart approached her 9-year-old daughter in the bakery area of Walmart back in early February. The mother was holding her daughter’s hand, looking at treats to pick out for that night’s dessert.
“My daughter was pointing to the cookies, and he picked up a package of the cookies and was waving her over,” she recounted.
The woman said the man began to say something to her daughter, but she couldn’t hear him. She immediately walked away with her daughter.
“It was odd to me how he was staring at me and then gesturing toward my daughter to come to him,” the mother said. “So, he tried to follow us in the cart.”
Eventually, he couldn’t fit the motorized cart through the produce isles they were walking through and he stopped, she recounted. The mom didn’t call police at the time because while weird, the situation wasn’t criminal or overly threatening.
But it stuck with her, and she thought of it as soon as she learned about Wednesday’s incident.
Another woman told FOX 13 a man driving a motorized cart rode past her daughter at the Saratoga Springs Smiths in March of 2020, and grabbed her daughter by the back of the neck as he drove past.
The woman confronted the man, and said he told her he liked little girls. She called police, and said Smith’s got involved and Saratoga Springs PD responded.
Sergeant Cannon explained an issue for them, is that creepy behavior isn’t always criminal by law.
In the case at Ridley’s Wednesday, Cannon described how grabbing by the arm isn’t classified as touch that is sexual in nature, which eliminates a charge like groping. And it’s also not quite enough for a harassment charge, he indicated.
“We haven’t got enough information to show that a crime related to, say, groping or something like that had taken place,” Cannon explained. However, he indicated that charges could still be forthcoming. “But we’re looking at what we might be able to do related to him actually physically grabbing one of these girls.”
Cannon urged anyone who is approached by a stranger making creepy comments or attempting to grab to call 911, just like the girls did on Wednesday. Even if it’s not criminal, he said there is still other actions they can take.
For example, the man can never come back to Ridley’s.
“The folks here Ridley’s have asked us to trespass him from their property,” Cannon said. “So, he is not allowed on their property at all, under any circumstances. And if he does come on, he’ll be subject to being arrested.”
In addition to the man behind Wednesday’s investigation, FOX 13 learned through the course of this story that there appears to be a second, completely different man approaching girls and women in the Saratoga Springs and Eagle Mountain area.
Several people recounted having run-ins with him at various places.
This person looks very similar to the man in Wednesday’s incident, and of a similar age but FOX 13 has learned his name is different.
That man, people reported, walks up to girls and makes inappropriate comments. He does not ride a motorized cart.
Saratoga Springs Police said they investigated two cases involving that same man– one in October 2020 at Smiths and one in March 2021 at Walmart. That person, police said, was permanently banned for life from all Smiths grocery stores in the state.