On Wednesday, August 23, Ashley Richburg, of Groom, took a trip to Pampa with her friend and toddler to do some shopping at Wal-Mart.
What started off as a routine shopping trip turned into a warning for all local parents to keep an eye on their surroundings while out in public. After making it about half-way through the shopping list, Richburg realized unwelcome company had joined her.
“I didn’t notice anything strange or unusual until we got about half-way through our shopping trip. I got to the back corner by the dairy section with my daughter walking beside me. I turned to looked for my friend who (was pushing) the basket, and he (an unkown individual to Richburg) was right there reaching for her (Richburg’s daughter),” she said.
“When I grabbed her, he took off the other direction really fast.”
Bewildered and in shock at the strange encounter, Richburg wondered what had really just happened.
“I was really unsure if he was actually reaching for her– it was obviously too close for my comfort and he had no reason to be (so close), so I started questioning if he was reaching for something that fell beside her. And did that actually just happen? I didn’t want to be that paranoid person,” Richburg shared.
“I didn’t notice or see him prior, and I didn’t know that he was in the vicinity around us. I started shaking (after he seemingly tried to grab her daughter) and ran to my friend and told her to stay away from that guy because I didn’t really know what had just happened. I didn’t want to assume, so I told her to keep shopping and that I’d take my daughter and go somewhere else to get away from him. So we got away from that area.”
It wasn’t until Richburg got to self-checkout that she noticed his presence again.
“He locked eyes with me while I was hunkered down with my daughter by the coke (refrigerators) and I yelled for my friend and at him to ‘get back’. He wouldn’t move, and he just had this grin on his face. That’s when I got scared,” Richburg said.
“A lady noticed that he was watching us and stopped checking out her groceries and was staring him down. She said ‘something’s not right here’.”
The woman, Geneva Wildcat, of Pampa, assured Richburg that she wasn’t leaving her side until the man left. However, the man wasn’t ready to leave, even with witnesses having taken notice to his strange behavior.
“He just wouldn’t leave and kept inching his way closer. When he realized I was calling for help, he grabbed some popcorn chicken and asked an older lady to pay for it because he didn’t have money on him to buy it. That’s when they (employees) escorted him out,” Richburg remembered of the situation.
“He didn’t ask why he was being escorted out, he just grinned and walked outside.”
“Looking back on the camera footage, he had been following us from the beginning of our shopping trip and even hid at the endcaps to see where we were.”
Upon review of camera footage, it is uncertain whether or not the man was aware of the store’s surveillance blind spots, but the area in which he reached for the child was in one of the very few blindspots in the store.
“That’s where it was concerning for the cops because they couldn’t even see on the camera,” Richburg shared.
“Even if his intentions weren’t what I think they were, my biggest thing is that I want moms to be more cautious than I was. To not be naiive and know that things can happen that fast,” she said.
It is unclear at the time this article was written whether or not the subject in question suffers from any form of mental illness or handicap.
Pampa Police Department released the following statement regarding the incident on August 24:
On 08/23/2023, Officers responded to Wal-Mart here in Pampa. Initial information given to Officers was to simply “Get officers there.” When Officers arrived they learned a female complainant and her child were being followed by a subject inside the store for a period of time. The subject was made to leave by Wal Mart employees prior to Officers’ arrival. The Officers were able to review video footage and observe the incident in question. The subject, who has been identified, was observed following the complainant and her child throughout the store. The vehicle, a 4-door silver GMC pickup, is the vehicle the subject got into. There were at least two other occupants in this vehicle. The vehicle was not located post-call. This is being investigated by the Pampa PD Criminal Investigations Division for potential criminal charges.
As we teach in CRASE training (for citizens), please be aware of your surroundings. If something doesn’t feel or seem right, NEVER hesitate to call authorities no matter where you are. We always want to err on the side of caution when it comes to safety for you and your family.