The Palo Alto Police Department urgently needs the public's assistance in identifying and locating a man who committed a lewd act this week while closely standing behind a woman as she rang up her groceries in the self-checkout line of a Safeway store.
The incident happened at about 11 a.m. Wednesday at the Safeway store, located at 2811 Middlefield Rd. The victim, a woman in her 20s, called police Thursday morning to notify them of the incident.
The woman told police she was ringing up her groceries in the self-checkout line when she noticed the suspect standing very closely behind her.
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She told police that another man approached her, telling her that the suspect had been following her and taking photographs of her. That male witness, who police have not yet been able to identify nor interview, began yelling at the suspect. The victim was scared and left the store. Once outside, she noticed what she believed to be biological fluid on the back of her shirt and pants.
Police in close collaboration with the Safeway store's management were able to review surveillance video of the incident, which shows the suspect masturbating while standing immediately behind the woman. The suspect appeared to be fully clothed at the time and was discreetly masturbating, according to police, but in such a way that his actions may have not been immediately obvious to a passerby.
The suspect left the store shortly after the incident and the verbal confrontation with the unidentified man who witnessed him following the woman.
The suspect is a Black male, possibly in his 20s or 30s, about 6 feet tall and weighing approximately 210 pounds. He was wearing a black shirt and a gray zippered sweatshirt under an orange construction vest, blue jeans and black sneakers with white markings. He had a large set of keys hanging off the front of his belt. He was also wearing a black face covering and a black baseball cap or hat.
Video surveillance showed the suspect returning to the Safeway parking lot to a white Chevrolet or GMC full-size van with swing-out side doors. A surveillance image of the suspect, along with an image of his vehicle, are the only images being released by the Palo Alto Police Department. Police are not releasing the surveillance video.
The Palo Alto Police Department is actively investigating this incident. A police spokesperson said the department is not aware of any similar incidents occurring in Palo Alto or neighboring cities.
Police are hoping to identify and interview the man who confronted the suspect in the store. Police are asking that this person contact the Palo Alto Police Department at (650) 329-2413.
Anyone with information about this incident, or the suspect, is asked to contact the Palo Alto Police Department's 24-hour dispatch center at (650) 329-2413. Anonymous tips can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or sent via text message or voice mail to (650) 383-8984.