Commonwealth Journal

June 5, 2013

Police seek help finding groping suspect

Man alleged to have touched women on their buttocks

by Heather Tomlinson
Commonwealth Journal

Somerset —

Local authorities are asking for the public’s help in identifying a man who allegedly made inappropriate contact with two women in separate incidents at a Somerset store.
Detectives with the Somerset Police Department are investigating two incidents that happened on May 30 at TJ Maxx clothing store, located in the Grand Central shopping center. The two females reported that they’d been touched by a man in the store. 
Both times, the suspect made it appear accidental or unintentional.
But the man’s intent behind the alleged incidents can be seen through store surveillance video, according to Lt. Shannon Smith, with SPD.
“He made it appear that (the contact was uninten-tional), although it’s clear from the video it was not,” said Smith. “He clearly intended to do it.”
Smith said the man allegedly touched both victims in the buttocks area in an action that appeared he was “passing by.”
Smith described the two women as being in their late 20s or early 30s. 
Smith said SPD made the decision to release a surveillance video of the man in hopes that he would be identified. And investigators aren’t ruling out the idea that there may be other victims who may not have filed reports.
Smith said they’d heard unconfirmed reports that there were other victims, but he said it’s impossible to substantiate those claims without official reports.
“Nobody has come forward and made an official complaint,” said Smith. “With somebody else coming forward with a specific date and time range ... we may be able to get a better video of him.”
SPD released the video of the suspect on its Facebook page, and it didn’t take long before more than 1,000 people had viewed the video and accompanying news release.
“There is definitely an advantage to getting social media involved,” said Smith. 
The man is described as being in his mid-30s or early 40s, with a stocky build, and being of mixed-race, or a light-skinned black male with short or balding hair.
The man was last seen driving a black or dark colored Chevrolet or GMC pickup carrying a yellow ladder.
Anyone with information on the man is asked to contact SPD through its crime tip line at (606) 676-TIPS, or through the SPD “See-Hear-Report” program by sending a text to “CRIMES” and including “SOMERSETPD” in the text. 
With either method, you remain anonymous.
Smith said those who recognize the man can rest easy knowing any information they provide cannot be traced back to them, especially through the text program, which basically wipes clean any identifying information of the texter before SPD receives the information. 
“We know that traditionally through surveillance video sometimes it’s relatives or close friends who recognize the suspect ... they may be unwilling to turn a loved one in,” said Smith. “With this, we can guarantee confidentiality.
“We need the public’s help identifying this person,” Smith added.