Reported Suspicious Person at Target – Updated 9/19

There are several posts on social media circulating about a suspicious male at various locations around Charlotte County. The posts state that the male attempted to engage children in conversation and/or made the parent feel uncomfortable. Here is an update on the information that we have and what we are doing with it.

This post has been updated with the conclusion to our investigation (9/19). 

On September 15th, at approximately 8:00pm, deputies responded to the Target Store in Port Charlotte after receiving a phone call about a suspicious male. The caller, a mother of small children, reported that the incident happened earlier in the day (approximately 11:00am). According to the caller, the male followed the mother and her children around the toy aisles, engaging the children in small talk about toys. The mother stated she requested the male leave her alone several times, and finally requested the assistance of a Target Loss Prevention employee. The Target LP employee escorted the mother and her children to their car. According to the caller, she posted the information on social media and was contacted by two unknown people saying the same thing happened to them (these other people have not contacted the Sheriff’s Office).

Deputies made contact with Target management. The loss prevention employee was able to obtain video of the male inside the store, although no video showed any interaction between the male and the caller.

At this time, there is no indication that any crime has been committed. Deputies are only attempting to identify the male to determine what may have occurred.

On September 19th, detectives made contact with loss prevention staff at Target to review all of the video surveillance available. There was no evidence that the male was following the family or any other juveniles in the store. Surveillance shows the male in certain departments of the store prior to the family and children entering those departments.

Detectives were able to positively identify the male through speaking to store staff. Staff recalled him as a frequent customer who also engaged them in conversation about a toy he was purchasing for his daughter. Detectives met with the male at his residence and discussed the incident with him. He stated he was sorry for the confusion and was only speaking to people about the toy because his daughter collects them and he was excited about Target’s stock of the item. The male is not a convicted felon, is not on any probation, and has no sex offender status.

Upon reviewing the evidence and statements obtained during the investigation Detectives have determined that no crime occurred. The investigation is complete at this time.

This story of this event, through social media posts, spread quickly through our community. Social media is a valuable tool for communication (we are using it now to reach you), but it should not be the only method used to communicate a perceived danger in our community. It is important to report suspicious events or people immediately to our agency so that a deputy can respond and investigate what is taking place. A delay in reporting can lead to a missed opportunity to gather all of the facts, as well as the spread of misinformation as different people or outlets relay the information to one another.

The non-emergency number to the Sheriff’s Office is 639-0013. This number is answered by a dispatcher 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. A safe community is a partnership between residents and law enforcement. Never hesitate to notify us if you see or experience something that alarms you.

 

Katie Heck
Public Information Officer
Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office
kheck@ccso.org

 

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