Saturday, November 01, 2014
   
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Teen, her family learn from a frightening occurrence

Stranger approaches student walking home.

A Gothenburg teen and her family are more aware of how to keep themselves safe, following a frightening incident a couple of weeks ago.

By sharing their story, they hope not to alarm the community but to make people think of how they might react in a similar situation.

Because they requested anonymity, their names have been changed.

* * * *

A Friday afternoon.

Lucy stayed a few minutes after school to work on a junior high science fair project.

Most of the students had left the campus when the 13-year-old strolled through the parking lot and began walking north on Avenue I.

“I was supposed to walk home with one of my friends but ended up walking alone,” Lucy said.

More often than not, Lucy’s mother picked her up from school but she was out of town.

Lucy wasn’t paying much attention to her surroundings. Instead, she was enjoying the walk as temperatures climbed into the 40s.

Out of the blue, she got a funny feeling.

“Like someone was watching me,” she said.

She heard a car behind her slow down and glanced over her shoulder.

A silver car, with what she thought had a Colorado license plate, was following her.

“It scared me. It creeped me out,” Lucy said.

Once she turned west on 20th Street, she said the car made a U-turn in the hospital parking lot and pulled up close beside her.

Lucy moved over to the grass and kept walking.

By now, she was worried and got out her cell phone and pretended to talk to someone.

“He drove off,” Lucy said.

Only to return after driving around the block.

The car then disappeared again.

Lucy crossed an alley next to her home and looked up. The man was standing in her backyard.

Brown hair. Moustache. Black T-shirt and jeans.

He started walking toward her.

By now, Lucy said her fear—on a scale of one to 10—was now a 10.

She ran to the Gothenburg Housing Authority parking lot across the street while calling her mother on the phone.

* * * *

“I didn’t understand what she was saying,” Lucy’s mother said. “She was talking too fast, she was crying. She was hysterical.”

Once her daughter slowed down her conversation, Jan told her to go where there were people.

Jan dialed 911.

Lucy said she found people in the parking lot and begged them to stay outside with her.

She then called her father who came home from work.

Within minutes, police arrived but the man, and his car, had vanished.

* * * *

Today, Lucy said she still feels safe in Gothenburg but wonders why the man chose her to follow home.

Jan said she’s never had to worry about the safety of any of her daughters.

However the incident made her think about all of the kids in the community who walk to and from school, the swimming pool and other places without parental supervision.

“Our life has gone on and we don’t dwell on it,” Jan said. “But we’ve made some safety changes.”

They now hide a house key in a place that isn’t as isolated as before and have programmed 911 into their cell phones.

Jan and her husband have also talked to Lucy about what to do if she feels uncomfortable.

“Go where there are people around and tell someone you are uncomfortable,” Jan said.

If possible, Jan and Lucy said to walk home with friends.

“Be aware of your surroundings and if you get an uncomfortable gut feeling, go to where there are people,” Jan said.

The family has also contacted neighbors about the incident.

Lucy told her friends what happened.

One friend said she’s walked home with friends since the Friday Lucy was approached.

Despite the experience, Lucy said she thinks Gothenburg is still safe. Many adults, who have heard her story, have offered rides to wherever she may need to go.

“They care about you,” she said.

* * * *

Officer Ryan Randolph confirmed the story and encouraged anyone in an uncomfortable situation to call 911.

In addition to having cell phones handy and walking with friends, Randolph advised people to lock their doors as they should regardless of the incident.

“Scream, make noise, run, go to a neighbor’s house,” he added.

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