Driving rural roads, alone at night, can leave motorists in a vulnerable position. Add to that scenario, an unidentified man repeatedly following those travelers, asking them to stop to inspect nonexistent damage. Three such incidents have happened over the last few weeks in eastern North Carolina. Now Mikel Peterson has more on the man’s tactics and some practical tips that could keep you safe.
Detective Michael Stroud with the Pitt County Sheriff's office is currently investigating reports from 3 Pitt County women on the unidentified man who tried to flag each one of them down recently. On October 29th, a woman just leaving work reported being followed by a car with flashing lights near the Greenville Airport. The man continued to follow her as she turned left on Highway 903 towards Stokes all the way to the road where she lives.
“she pulled over and he got out of the car and went up to the driver’s side window and told her that she had damage on the back of her vehicle. And she didn’t remember her car being damaged, didn’t remember hitting anything. So she was like something’s wrong with this. So she said, ‘I’m good, I’ll just check it out later’ and she pulled off and left. And once she got home, she looked at her car and realized that there was no damage on her car at all.”
Detective Stroud says the suspect, reported to be a slender African American man, was traveling in a dark colored truck. His identity at this time is unknown. Nine days later, the Pitt County Sheriff’s Office received a similar report. A man matching the same description targeted a woman heading south toward Vanceboro on N.C. 43. This time, Stroud said the suspect was driving a Chevrolet Camaro, but used the same ruse to lure the woman out of her car.
“he pulled up beside her, rolled down his passenger window and told her she had damage on her car and that she might need to get out and look at it. She was like ‘are you sure?’ and he said ‘yeah’ and he ended up getting out of his car and walking around the passenger side of hers and said ‘you can get a better angle here, you know, you might want to look at it so I can show you what’s wrong.’”
Fortunately, the woman drove away and did report the incident.
The last reported attempt by the suspect took place Saturday, November 8th in Greenville. The target, another woman, was pulling out of Burger King on Greenville Boulevard when the man, still driving a white Camaro, intercepted her.
“And when she got up there to the stoplight there where Parker’s Restaurant is on Greenville Blvd., he pulled up beside her and motioned for her to roll her window down. When she rolled her window down, he told her that she had damage on the back of her car and she might want to pull over and look at. And she knew that she didn’t have any damage on her car and she just ignored him.”
Stroud says all three women describe the man as being around 5' 10" tall, clean shaven, and short hair.
“They said he was very nice, you know very polite, was not disrespectful in any way. But he was very persistent in getting them out of the car.”
In response to these reports the businesses where the women work have stepped up surveillance. The Pitt County Sheriff’s Department and Greenville Police are watching on patrols for vehicles matches. Detective Stroud indicates there are some leads they are following up on, but maintains no arrests will be made because the man hasn’t actually committed a crime.
“so, even if we get identification on him, there’s really nothing we can do other than bring him in and talk to him. But he’s not done anything to break the law. Thank goodness he hasn’t, because if they had gotten out of the car, this would be a whole different interview.”
Here are some tips that could keep you safe. If you’re approached at night by a vehicle with flashing lights, indicating you pull over right away, intuition may prompt you to resist the urge. Number one, always keep your cell phone nearby. Check with 911, as most law enforcement must relate to their communications center they’re conducting a traffic stop.
Give the 911 operator your name, location, and vehicle description. Ask if a law enforcement officer is known to be stopping a car matching your information. Seeking verification before stopping could save your life.
The Pitt County Sherriff’s Office is interested to know if other people have recently encountered this yet unidentified person. If it’s happened to you, you’re asked to contact their office. For Public Radio East, I’m Mikel Peterson.