Annals of Maumelle stalking | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Annals of Maumelle stalking

Posted By on Thu, Sep 25, 2008 at 1:06 PM

On the jump, a weird story from the Maumelle Monitor about a man arrested for harassing women at retail stores -- sometimes after leaving his own young child in a car. His stalking routine apparently been spotted in LR, too, according to Fox 16.

Casual conversations with the man allegedly have a tendency to turn to sexual topics, though he hasn't been accused of physical harm to anyone.

Maumelle man charged after women complain of harassment


By Bill Lawson
Staff Writer

A Maumelle man has been charged with two misdemeanor counts of harassment after several women were approached at retail locations in town.
John Bax, 45, was arrested Monday and released on $1,000 bond, Chief Sam Williams said.
Williams said he moved the investigation onto the front burner after talking with several women.
He said Tuesday that every retailer in town knew about the accusations. He said he could understand why individual incidents would be dismissed as isolated incidents but “collectively, this is a serious problem.”
Williams also said some women in town were panicking about the situation. He said there was no need for alarm because so far police have had no reports of any violent behavior — just harassment. He urged anyone with more information to call the Maumelle police.
When Bax was arrested Monday, he had his 4-year-old son with him, Williams said.
Williams said Monday before he had talked with any victims that the man “creeps people out” and that his activities may not be criminal but are “pestering and alarming.”
Williams said he didn’t want to alarm people but asked anyone who may have had contact with Bax to come forward. He said the reported incidents likely weren’t isolated and urged anyone who has had similar experiences to report them.
He said Maumelle police had received other reports about a man contacting women in the parking lots at Wal-Mart, Kroger and at Lake Willastein.
While police were looking for the man, another woman came forward and told police more about her experience.
Then police received a call Monday afternoon about a suspicious person at the Maumelle Library, and patrol officers quickly found a man fitting the description there. After interviewing him, they charged him with harassment involving two incidents. The first occurred Sunday at the new Kroger parking lot, and the second was minutes before he was arrested at the library.
Bax is a stay-at-home dad who lives in a mobile home park at 17 Spruce Lane, just across Interstate 40 in Morgan, Williams said.
Monday, a 27-year-old Maumelle woman told police that a man that looked like Bax approached her while she was using the computer at the library and said, “Hi.”
According to the arrest affidavit, he told her she was stunning and asked personal questions. He then made comments about her necklace and asked whether she were a pagan.
Asked whether she were married, she said she was. He said her husband was a lucky man and touched her twice on the shoulder. She told police she thought that was inappropriate. She told police she was “creeped out.”
The victim then went to Maumelle police offices and identified Bax from photos of six people.
Bax allegedly approached another woman in the Kroger parking lot Sunday and told her he had been watching her and thought she was attractive. As she put up her shopping cart to leave, she said, he asked her to forgive his boldness. She also identified Bax from photos, Williams said.
Word about women being approached at the Wal-Mart Supercenter on Maumelle Boulevard quickly spread after a Sept. 8 incident. On Sept 9, a Maumelle woman who said she was harassed told her story in an e-mail. She asked for and was granted anonymity.
The 32-year-old mother said a man began following her into Wal-Mart and making suggestive comments to her.
The e-mail stated:
“Hi everyone, I wanted to let you all know what happened to me at Wal-Mart yesterday. I parked my car and started walking towards the store and I noticed a man walking towards me coming from the opposite side of the parking lot. He looked very clean-cut — had on a polo shirt, khakis, and looked like he could have been any one of our husbands or friends. He looked at me and said ‘hi’, and I did the same. I took a few more steps and he said ‘hi’ to me again. I thought that was a little weird, but I just quickened my steps and walked into the store. At this point he came up behind me, got real close to me, and said ‘you are looking at me like you know me.’ I casually said ‘oh no, I am just in my own little world.’ Then he leans in and says ‘if you had said yes, I would have been turned on.’
“At this point I was in the store, and quickly got away from him. I watched as he went towards the back of the store. I went down an aisle and was so flustered, I decided to stay there and hope that he would leave the store before I saw him again. After about 5 [minutes] of standing there, I looked down the aisle and he walked past the aisle looking up at me. This scared me to death because I knew he was following me. Thankfully, there was another customer and an employee in the same aisle talking. The worker noticed that I was nervous I guess, and asked me if I was OK, and I told her that a man had approached me in the parking lot, and that I thought he was following me. At this point, the other customer I was facing looked over my shoulder and asked me if he was heavy set and wearing a black shirt, and I said yes. She said he had walked past a couple of times while I was standing there.
“The Wal-Mart employee told me to wait there and she went and got a plain clothed security guard. I know the man saw me talking to them, and he started to walk out the front door. The security guard walked me to my car and looked for the guy who had disappeared. I did not have my kids with me.”
“It may sound like I’m over-reacting, but trust me, it was a very scary experience, and I wanted to let you all know it can happen completely out of the blue to any of you. The security guard told me that Wal-Mart parking lots are frequented by these sickos, so just be very careful when you go there, or any other parking lot.”
The woman told the Monitor on Tuesday when she saw Bax’s photo, “That’s the guy. That’s him. He’s wearing the same shirt he had on when he approached me.”
She said that looking at his photo “took my breath away.”
Although she wasn’t physically hurt, she said the incident “shook my sense of security.”
She said she was thankful there was a Wal-Mart employee nearby when he followed her into the store and she thanked their security team for quickly addressing the issue and offering her an escort to her vehicle.
Laurie Smalling, Arkansas spokeswoman for Wal-Mart said she couldn’t comment on the alleged incident because she had not heard about it.
Kroger officials didn’t return calls before press time.
The Maumelle woman said she would contact authorities to see that the incident was reported.
City attorney JaNan Davis said that as scary as the situation sounded, it probably didn’t meet the state’s definition of stalking but probably would fall under harassment.
Davis said in an e-mail to the Monitor:
“Actually stalking is defined in 5-71-229 and requires that the actor engage in a ‘course of conduct’ (which has to be 2 or more acts over 36 hours) that harasses AND makes a terroristic threat either (1) in violation of an order of protection or no contact or (2) has a previous conviction of stalking, threats, or domestic battery; or (3) is armed with a deadly weapon.”
“Second degree stalking does not require one of the last three elements above but does require a course of conduct and a terroristic threat,” Davis said.
She said the e-mail describes activities that “might fall into the category of Harassment ACA 5-71-208. ‘A person commits the offense of harassment if, with the purpose to harass, annoy or alarm another person, without good cause, he: (3) follows a person in or about a public place; or (5) engages in conduct or repeatedly commits acts that alarm or seriously annoy another person and that serve no legitimate purpose.’ ”
While she made those comments as city attorney, Davis said her perspective as a woman gives her other concerns.
“As a female in Maumelle I would say that we should all be first, defensive, and second, observant,” she said. “I love Maumelle for its peace and small town feel. But unfortunately, horrible things happen in small towns too. By being defensive, we are more aware of the potential threats and change our decisions (where to park, who to talk to) accordingly. By being observant, we protect our community by watching for problems and being accurate and credible witnesses when we do see something. I always try to make sure that someone knows where I am going and to keep my phone on me. While it may seem like I am overdoing it, I have often called the nonemergency line at the Maumelle Police Department because someone was out of place in my neighborhood or because I felt like a problem was imminent in a certain location. So far I have been wrong every time. I am glad for that, but also glad I had the ability to call on the Police.”
“Statistically, we are all more likely to be attacked by someone we know. However, that should not give you reason to disregard the potential for danger, even in public places.”
The mother of the 27-year-old woman who reported being harassed at the library said her daughter had read about the alleged Sept. 8 event in the e-mail going around and was more prepared to deal with it. She also said her daughter was content to just report the incident to library officials until she encouraged her to contact police.
Williams said he wanted to thank his patrol officers publicly for acting quickly after receiving the call from the library. He also wanted to thank Detective Chris Stroud, Cpl. Dustin Ivey, Officer Clinton McClintlock and all those who worked on the investigation.
Bax is to appear in Maumelle District Court on Oct. 14.

FOX 16 REPORT

A North Little Rock man charged with harassment is out of jail. A woman who claims to be one of John Bax's victims says as long as he's out on the streets all women need to beware, it could happen to them.


During a work break at a Little Rock shopping center Laura Buratowski says John Bax sat down next to her. He was polite and complimentary at first but Buratowski says it didn't take long for his c onversation to take a bad turn. "Asking me if I was an open minded person, if I was adventurous and then asked me my sexual preference and if I ever want to be with more than one person at a time," says Buratowski.


This left her so afraid that she filed a complaint with Little Rock Police.  Buratowski later found out this happened to other women in Maumelle.  Police investigated incidents at the public library and Kroger.  In both cases women claim Bax made inappropriate sexual comments to them.  Police gathered enough evidence to arrest Bax on two counts of harassment. "What we're looking at is the victim how they perceive it.  Did they perceive this as something that causes alarm or scares them," says Maumelle Police Chief Sam Williams.


Police have stacks of complaints that started rolling in once Bax was arrested.  Many of these women say he did the same thing to them.


Now Bax is out of jail. "That bothers me, it really does because someone who gets their thri lls from harassing people slowly he's not gonna get much thrill out of harassing and he's going to take it a step further and a step further," says Buratowski.


FOX16 went to Bax's home to talk to him about the charges against him. A man who looked like Bax came to the door.  He said John Bax was not home.  Laura Buratowski is telling women in the area to be careful. And if they see Bax, to call police immediately.

A couple of the women say when Bax approached them they noticed he had small children in the car with him.  That upset them even more. Again police are going through other complaints; more charges could be filed against him.

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