A Stockton man went to Manteca police after Facebook posts that include his photo but not his name accused him of stalking or attacking women in Manteca and Modesto.
“From what I’ve heard, this pretty much went viral – we were getting inquiries from out of state,” Manteca Police Department spokesman Sgt. Mike Aguilar said Thursday morning.
Wednesday night, a post on the city of Manteca’s Facebook page said police continue to investigate a report made on Memorial Day of a man “possibly attempting to take women from Walmart for human trafficking.”
The post said the man learned from friends that his photo was on Facebook and went to police to address the matter. “The male and his wife confirmed with Manteca Police that they were shopping in Walmart when the photograph was taken. The male was holding his wife’s place in line at the cash register when he noticed he was being photographed.”
Police have not named the man, but on Facebook, a Stockton resident, took on his accusers in a post of his own. “Hey the photo u have used for ur bull---- story is mine,” he wrote. “... I’m a married guy my wife is 7 months pregnant. It’s so embarrassing for me and my family what u have posted.”
The Stockton man could not be reached for comment but said in his post that he intended to file a complaint with police and take his accusers to court.
A Merced woman attached the photo taken of the man at the Manteca Walmart to a post of her own, saying he’s the same man who stalked her at Vintage Faire Mall on May 16, eventually running toward her car as she was preparing to leave the parking lot. She later removed the photo, without explanation, but updated the post to say she made a report and has a case number from Modesto police.
In his post, the Stockton man says he’s a long-haul truck driver and was in Oklahoma on May 16.
Aguilar confirmed that Manteca police were given information that the man who came to the department was not in the area at the time of the alleged mall incident. “We will follow up on that,” he said. “He was pretty forthcoming with the officer.” Someone else who saw the man’s photo reported to police that they’d seen him at another Manteca store on Monday, and the man confirmed that he also was at that store shopping with his wife, Aguilar said.
The department’s Facebook post noted that investigators are in the process of obtaining and reviewing surveillance video from Walmart. “It’s not easy to get video in a timely manner from a store, Plus, when we get it, it takes time to review,” Aguilar said.
The photograph from inside the Walmart was taken by a woman who said she believed the man was behaving in a suspicious manner and following her, police said. Investigators will view the footage to see if anything corroborates what either side has reported. “From what I understand from the officer of the activity reported by the female, nothing the man did constitutes a criminal violation.
“... If it turns out to be a misunderstanding, great. At same time, we don’t want people to think we come at them as skeptics.”
People should feel comfortable reporting suspicious behavior to police, Aguilar said. “We’d rather people be safe than sorry.”
The human-trafficking tie in the Walmart incident apparently stems from the April 14 arrests of 18 people in a sting operation by Manteca police and the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Department.
An ABC 10 report said the suspects were arrested on suspicion of various offenses. Some charges were related to prostitution. Three were for contacting a minor with the intent to commit a sexual offense. There is no mention of Walmart in the story.
The Manteca police post Wednesday says, “The information that the people involved in the human trafficking arrests on 04/14/17 in Manteca were kidnapped is false. To this date, there have been no reports made to the Manteca Police Department of any kidnapping or attempted kidnapping at Walmart.”
As for the posts with the photo of the Stockton man, they’ve drawn the expected mix of reactions. One man commented, “Everyone who posted here accusing an innocent Indian man for human trafficking should be ashamed.” Another wrote, “People are going to get this guy hurt because they are spreading false information and his picture.”
But other comments included, “Looks like a nut, you had a lucky escape” and “Despicable, remember this face.”
Deke Farrow: 209-578-2327