Several people posted on Facebook this week about being approached by a man who claimed that he needed help because his van had a flat tire.
The incidents happened in parking lots, including at Holiday Village Mall, Walgreens, Marketplace, and Target. The FB posts said that in each case, the van in question did NOT have a flat tire.
It happened to Brianna St Lawrence-Brody, who wrote: “I had a man approach me in the Old Navy parking lot today as soon as I got out of my car. He immediately said he had traveled from Oregon and now had a flat tire. I told him I was unable to help as I figured if he really needed to use a phone, he could have gone into Old Navy and use theirs, and kept walking holding my girls a little tighter to me. AS soon as I got into the store, I saw him drive away.”
She noted that the man was white, about six feet tall, suntanned, full salt and pepper beard, and was wearing a teal tank top with board shorts.
Fortunately, at least one of the women he approached snapped photos of the van, including the Oregon license plate.
On Wednesday afternoon, the Great Falls Police Department posted this on Facebook after talking to the man at about 5 p.m.:
We’ve received multiple reports of a man driving a gold van with Oregon plates approaching women in parking lots around town and asking for help with a flat tire. We have identified the male in question and he has been interviewed regarding the suspicious behavior. While we do not have evidence a crime has been committed, it was made clear to the male that his behavior was making community members nervous and he was asked to stop. Please do not approach this male or his vehicle. If you ever see or experience suspicious behavior please call our non-emergency line at 406-727-7688 X5, so an officer can check it out.
Good job to everyone that sensed something wasn’t right about the situation, took pictures, and notified the police – and of course kudos as always to the GFPD for addressing it. Seriously – if you get the feeling that someone is sketchy, don’t hesitate to whip out your phone and take a picture/video. If the person is truly in need, he/she won’t mind and will likely appreciate your sense of caution. If the person is NOT in need and looking for a victim, he/she will likely get out of there quickly – and you will then have evidence if needed.
Clearly, the man in question was sketchy and almost certainly up to something bad, but he hasn’t actually done anything criminal, so nothing more can be done at this point – but please let this serve as yet another reminder to be careful! Be aware of your surroundings, trust your instinct, keep your phone ready, and for those so inclined, carry whatever weapon you deem appropriate and/or legal.