At approximately 3:00 p.m. on February 20, 2021, Melinda Lemus and her two children were shopping inside Ukiah’s Walmart when she noticed a man was following her aisle-to-aisle. Out of concern for her safety, Lemus called her husband who then contacted Ukiah Police Department. Ukiah Police Department Operations Lieutenant Andy Phillips confirmed the man trailing Lemus was in fact a registered sex offender on parole. Upon investigation, no criminal conduct was identified, but the man’s parole agent was contacted and he was released.
Lemus’s concerns began while shopping for “Easter stuff” with her newborn and five-year-old when she “noticed a man who probably never would be in an Easter aisle.” Lemus said she went to the next aisle and the “man also went to this aisle.” Continuing to shop, Lemus saw him two other times and “started to feel off” so she called her husband and told him “I think I’m being followed.” Her husband called UPD and “hurried to come to the store.” As Lemus waited for UPD and her husband to arrive, she described going through “random aisles that he would probably never be in, and there he was!”
At that point, Lemus positioned herself near the store’s registers “where there was a lot of people to wait for my husband and officers.” Lemus and her children exited the building to meet UPD officer where she described the male and “within 5 minutes [the officer] walked out with the exact man.”
Lieutenant Phillips said when UPD officers arrived at the scene they “contacted an adult male, who was on Parole and was a registered sex offender.” Lieutenant Phillips described officers subsequently conducting an investigation “including reviewing the store’s surveillance and speaking to the female.”
At the conclusion of the investigation, Lieutenant Phillips said, “although he was being “creepy”, it was determined there was no criminal offense.” The detained male’s Parole Agent was contacted, “but due to no criminal violations, the male was released from the scene,” Lieutenant Phillips explained.
Lieutenant Phillips praised Lemus’s vigilance to protect her children: “As we both know, it’s not a crime to be “creepy”, but it was a good call by the female to trust her instincts and contact law enforcement. We would rather respond and evaluate the incident, even if it does not result in an arrest, than to come later and have someone injured.”
Lieutenant Phillips said, “UPD uses these types of calls for service to establish a patterns of behavior, which can assist in solving other crimes and/or strengthen other cases that follow the same type of behavior.”
Lemus expressed gratitude for Ukiah Police Department’s “quick response and for helping us feel safe!” She urged the public to “watch your surroundings.” She characterized being followed by the stranger in Walmart as “the scariest thing I could have gone through with my girls.”