A Close Call- Please Read


This post is really out of the norm! I like to keep things light and happy but I decided to write about my experience yesterday in hopes that by reading this, I may be able to save someone’s life.

 

I am always aware of my surroundings when I’m by myself. Maybe it’s because I grew up going to a ranch every weekend, or because I grew up in a big city but I’m always scanning for dangers and yesterday that saved my life.

 

I was making a fun gift to ship to a friend- a gallon sized mason jar filled with her favorite candy- skittles! I decided to stop at the new “5 and Below” store because they have a huge candy section! "5 and Below" is located in a big strip mall close to the highway. The strip center has Target and then rounds the corner to Bath and Body Works, Office Depot, Ulta, TJ Maxx, Party City, 5 and Below, and liquor store, and ends with our grocery store- Randalls. If you are from the Katy area you know exactly what I’m talking about but if you’re not- I just wanted to give you an idea of the size of this strip mall! The parking lot is huge too!

 

As I pulled into the parking lot in the area in front of "5 and Below" I thought about the possibility of robbers crouched between cars and decided to park in the far back. My coworker, Maria, had just been robbed by a man crouching in between cars so I parked towards the back so I wouldn’t be sandwiched between any cars where someone could crouch and hide.

 

Before I got out of my car I did my “peace of mind” scan and looked for anything suspicious- people sitting in running cars, anyone lingering around, etc. I saw was a gold suburban parked even further back than me- way at the very edge of the parking lot with a bearded man sitting inside. The suburban wasn’t very old and it had dark tinted windows. It was clear he was looking at me and speaking on the phone.

 

My brain immediately started thinking about the worst so I started to assume he could be the “watch out” to point out possible victims to the actual robbers. And as those thoughts rolled through my head I talked myself down. “No he’s probably waiting for his wife in TJ Maxx.” Or “he doesn’t like to talk and drive so he pulled over to this parking lot to talk about business.” And plus I’m a young girl in workout clothes getting out of my car so of course he’s going to look! Whatever it is he had given me no reason to find him a threat yet so I got out of my car and went to 5 and Below.

 

Turns out 5 and Below sells every candy under the sun, except skittles, so I decided to walk down the strip-mall sidewalk to Randalls- they’d for sure have skittle there. I left the store on guard again- like I always am… and how I’m glad I am. A few cars grabbing groceries drove by, looked for parking spots, then I noticed one car rolling slowly next to me. There are a lot of slow drivers around grocery stores but this one was moving directly next to me. I turned to see the gold suburban. The guy was staring at me and talking on his phone- clearly about me- and driving at the same pace of me walking. I decided I am not going to be an easy target who’s too scared to look him in the eyes. So I stop, turned, and stared at him and made eye contact so he knew- that I knew what he looked like. He made a backwards peace sign and covered his face with it and sped off. (Today I googled the meaning of a backwards peace sign and it means "I'm watching you.")

 

I tried memorizing his face but I didn’t get a good look. He had a beard and had sunglasses on but what I did notice was his size. He was a big guy who clearly worked out a lot. If he wanted something from me there was no doubt he’d muscle his way.

 

For those who don’t know me, I’m 5’2” and about 110 pounds. I have auburn hair and fair skin. The truth is- I really stand out in public places in my area. Being an outlier, you naturally catch an eye. So I’m used to being looked at. But this was a new level of being looked at- I was being watched.

 

I was a bit shaken that someone had had been watching me but I thought- "at least I scared him off" and went about my business. I bought my 6 pounds of skittles (it was a BIG jar), and walked out of Randalls. I looked down the parking lot to see the gold suburban parked directly next to my car.

 

No. Walking to my car was the last thing I was about to do at this moment. I walked back down the sidewalk and when the car didn’t move I walked into the Party City. There were two young girls behind the counter who didn’t look like much help. I wanted some large man to walk me to my car but there wasn’t one there. As I was thinking about what to do, inside the store, and out of sight, the gold suburban drove off toward the highway. I decided not to waste any time and took off power walking toward my car. I was half expecting to be robbed so I had prepared myself with an empty purse. I put my debit card and license inside the huge skittles bag and had my phone and keys in hand. My other hand held my purse. I thought- if he (and whoever else is in the back seat of the suburban) takes my purse they’ll get my cute bag, hand sanitizer, sunglasses and tampons. But there will be nothing of value!

 

I power-walked along the row of cars, heading as fast as I could to the back of the aisle where my car was parked. I was about three cars away from my own when, out of nowhere, the gold suburban swung up behind me and skidded in front of me diagonally- blocking me in. It suddenly occurred to me that my purse wasn’t all they could take. They could take me! I started looking in all directions like a mad woman. I know about distractors- one guy distracts your attention- asks you for directions, or what-not while someone from behind you grabs you when you’re off guard.

 

The guy rolled down his window and started talking "hey do I know you from somewhere?” 

 

“No!” I yelled it at the top of my lungs. If they wanted me, I was going to make sure everyone in that parking lot heard about it.

 

“Hey I feel like I know you from somewhere, where do I know you from. Look at me- I think I know you” he’s saying all of this while still on his phone- as if he wanted someone on the line to hear this.

 

I was still looking all around trying to figure out what the ploy was going to be. I didn’t want to look at him and let my guard down while one of his guys came and grabbed me “I don’t know you get away from me” I screamed as loud as possible.

 

The guy looked at me pissed off and sped off. He was so blocked in, that he had to back up before pulling off. I saw someone move through the dark tinted windows in the back seat as he drove off. I was only a few steps from my car now and I began to make a run for it! I frantically jumped in my car and locked it and tried to quickly access the situation. Am I safe now? Let me think for a second before I drive off. My car had just been blocked from my view throughout that encounter. Could someone have gotten in my car during that time?

 

I nervously turned my head around to find no one in my car- thank goodness. I was just a nervous wreck. I started to notice how much I was shaking and sweating. I wanted to cry but I didn’t feel like it was over yet. He had reappeared in the parking lot before- he could do it again. I should have got his license plate number as he sped away and I was so mad at myself for not thinking to do that. All of these thoughts were going through my brain when my boss texted me- about the skittles! I decided to hit call and called and talked to her while driving along to the gym to calm myself down. The entire way I kept looking in my rear view for the gold suburban.

 

That was yesterday and today is a new day. I got up, went to work, and now am about to go run an errand. I have this normal day, not because I did anything brave yesterday, but because of two things- I’m here today

1- I was aware of my surroundings and...

2- I didn’t let myself be an easy target.

 

Today I was reading about kidnapping rates which lead me to learning about sex trafficking.  Every once in a while you’ll hear a story on the news but I had no clue that sex trafficking was a huge deal in America. In my head it was a problem in developing countries but that doesn’t mean that we are exempt from this issue. In Texas, a study from 2011 reported 700 girls kidnapped for sex trafficking in a 30 day period. That's just Texas alone. And those numbers are getting increasingly worse. They typically target minors (which I very much look 17 years old) who are petite, alone, and an easy target. Oh and you’re significantly more likely to be targeted if you have long hair and are fair skinned! And Katy Mills Mall –our local mall is the worst location for sex trafficking kidnapping in our entire area. I don’t know if I’ve been blind about it up to this point, but I would never have gone to the mall alone if I had been exposed to these reports.

 

The guy wanted more than my purse, he had positioned his car to take me. The movement in the back seat was probably the person in charge of grabbing me while my guard was down. My screaming and awareness had scared them off but who knows about the next girl.

 

That’s why I decided to write this article. I want everyone to be as aware as ever as your surroundings. Take mental notes of who’s around you, what kind of cars, is anyone out of the norm? Next always be on guard- don’t dig through your purse, be on your phone, let a person distract you. Always scan your surroundings in public.

 

Cody mentioned to me that I should get my CHL. My friend said I should stop carrying purses. My mom said I shouldn’t go anywhere by myself. And Maria said I should delete all my social media accounts. But to me the fact stands- if that guy had the opportunity to grab me- he would have. Regardless of a gun in my bag, purse or no purse, social media account, etc. If he had the chance he would have taken me. And that’s where we can change. Don’t give them the chance.

 

 

This case has been filled with Harris County Precint 5 Sheriff's Office. 

132 comments

  • Bonnie Furgerson

    Wow! I can’t believe that. I’m 100% one of those people that walks with my key sticking out of my fingers like a knife, but this is a great reminder that it takes more than a blunt key to escape a dangerous situation. So incredibly glad that you are okay – I feel like human trafficking has finally got a spotlight on it’s ugly back and am grateful for your conscious decision to put your experience out there in this way to draw more attention to the problem. <3

  • Citrine

    My friends mother was robbed at gun point by 2 black guys in a gold SUV they stole her purse. She was at the Danny’s on Bay Area Blvd in Webster.

  • Jake

    If this ever happens again, you simply without your phone, take a picture or 2 of the person in the vehicle, the vehicle and the license plate. Or better yet take video. This act alone will stop almost anyone from acting untoward. Then post those photos on video on social media, or better yet, send them to your local police department.

  • sara

    omg!! ive seen that car! my dad used to live down this road on dairy ashford couple streets down from Westheimer, i walked from my dads apartment to the convenient store one time the store is on dairy ashford on this little strip while walking up i saw the guy driving slowly like he was following me, and i had a bad feeling about it, i went inside the store and came out and there he was parked in front of the store, as soon as i started walking he started his vehicle and than blocked me open a little of his window and asked me “do i know you from somewhere?” and i was so confused bc i couldn’t even see his face just his eyes on the crack of the window, i got freaked out and took off running, crossed the street (dairy ashford) and than i started running down the street to my dads apartments, i was running on the side where if he followed me he would be driving the wrong way bc the street is separated by this little park strip thing and each side of the park is a one way street, well he started drivng on the wrong side like driving on a one way street going the wrong way and i ran faster and started screaming for anyone to hear me, i got to the complex with the guy still yelling stuff at me like “come here” “i know you” out of his car driving the wrong way and following me than a man walking his dog saw me and i ran to him screaming and he scared of the guy following me and he sped off, its just weird that the car was a gold suburban, i dont remember what the licence plate anymore i did get it at the time to call police but i remember it was a gold suburban with dark windows, me and my dad did go to the police station thats on dairy ashford and reported it with the plate number and everything, this was like 3 yrs ago

  • John

    Yes… go ahead and get a Concealed Weapons Permit and get trained. BUT… if you’re in a situation like that and you have an opportunity to call the police… call the police! Tell them that you don’t feel safe to return to your car… give all of the information that you shared in your article. i.e. the suspect’s type of car, color, whatever physical description, etc. Do this BEFORE you walk back out to your car and request a police escort. For the most part, the law-enforcement crowd are a noble bunch. I’m convinced that a capable police officer would have been more than willing to assist you. Also, the scumbags that we’re targeting you would have gotten the message that your mall is a dangerous place to “do business.” I will not comment here on what I personally believe should happen to the scumbags… let’s just politely say say that I think they should be out of business… permanently. Stay aware… stay safe.

  • Analyn

    Add a #3 rule: Safety in numbers.
    If you’ve seen a big guy who signals “I’m watching you” do NOT attempt to handle this on your own !! Mall security, store employee, even another 2 women so you’re not by yourself. I’ve had grocery store clerks walk me out at night.
    And we women need to not be so polite to strangers who ask for money, want to ‘help’ us.
    Tough world & hard to discern motives

  • Virginia

    I’m so glad you were aware of the situation. I have two beautiful teen aged daughters that do not believe me when I tell them these stories. How can we get these young girls to be more aware and proactive? I think we need to get into the high schools and even middle schools with young speakers that tell their stories. I’m going to show my daughters your story and hope it makes an impact.

  • M. Elizabeth

    I just have an idea you may have already heard but…..Most of my girlfriend’s have tear gas or pepper spray attached to their key chains.
    I would definitely think investing in that.
    Stay safe.

  • GAyla

    I live just a few blocks from the area you are talking about. I shop at Randall’s all the time.
    I have been approached at the Shell station on the corner once where a young man came to me while I was putting gas in my car. He ask if I could lend him money so he could get into Houston. I told him to pull his car into a pump and I would put some gas in his truck. I walked over to a man at another pump and ask him to stay with me while I put $10.00 gas in the truck. Then I noticed the guy who wanted gas money had several othe guys with him. As the man who stayed with
    Me and I left I was careful not to go in the direction of my home. The truck went into McDonalds.
    Also was in Randall’s when a man was overly friendly. Wanted to carry my groceries out. I said I was no ready to go. Then had an employee to walk me to my car.
    I am beginning to think this is not a real safe shopping area

    Makes me so mad.

  • LaDonna Cole

    I agree about the phone being a great safety tool. I’ve run scenarios like this through my head and decided if I’m ever suspicious about anything, I’m going to pull up Facebook live and start streaming. “Hey, dude, you’re on Facebook live and 20, no 21, no 25 of my friends are seeing your face right now. Oh look, here come the angry emoticons. I think you need to turn around and leave.” Just a suggestion. :) Kudos for being on guard and vigilant.

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