A woman was followed by a man on a popular trail in Comox last week, and RCMP say hers is one of five similar reports.
Comox Valley RCMP say two incidents happened in Goose Spit on Oct. 11 around 4:30 p.m. and MacDonald Wood Park on Oct. 20 around 4 p.m.
The suspect description in both incidents is similar. The suspect is described as a man, roughly 25 years old with light brown hair.
In the Goose Spit incident, the suspect was reported to be around six feet tall, wearing a beige/grey hoodie and black track pants. In the MacDonald Wood Park incident, the suspect was reported to be around 5’7″ or 5’8″, wearing a baseball cap with a yellow reflective jacket and black pants.
Police say they have since received three additional reports of similar incidents, but it has not yet been determined if the incidents are linked or not. Police did not provide a description for the three additional reports.
The woman in the MacDonald Wood Park incident spoke with CHEK News on the condition of anonymity for fear of being targeted by the individual.
She says when she went out for a walk initially, nothing seemed amiss.
“I was just about maybe 10 minutes into the trail after I’d met a few people as I always do, I always greet everybody I walk by, because that’s just polite,” the woman told CHEK News.
“The last person that I passed, was this man. I wasn’t really paying close attention at first because I was just looking at the trees or my dog, and then when he was a few feet in front of me, I noticed him. So I looked up, and I smiled, and now he’s almost beside me and he had his head down, then I said, ‘Hello’, and he looked at me out of the very side of his eye.
“Immediately, as soon as I locked eyes with him, I knew something was wrong. It was like I got full body tingles of ‘this is not good.’ Something is off and I never feel that way about anyone.”
At this point, she says she noticed his outfit, he was wearing a yellow fluorescent jacket, that looks like a construction jacket. She thought that seemed out of place since there was no construction happening nearby. He also wore a dark baseball cap. He had facial hair and an angular jaw.
‘It seemed like a game to him’
She kept walking, then about a minute later looked back, and he was “standing in the middle of the trail, staring at me very aggressively.”
“Then I thought, ‘Oh no, I’m in trouble,'” she said. “I wanted to go back to my car, but he was blocking the trail.”
She continued on and kept looking back, and he was always behind her. “It was like a game to him.”
She trusted her gut, then took off running to get into an open area in the hopes of finding someone else who could help her. She had left her phone in the car to get away from everything and disconnect, so she couldn’t call for help.
When she reached the beach, she saw someone running and flagged him down. After she told him her story, the man, who turned out to be Comox Councillor Jonathan Kerr, pointed out a man hiding in the trees, and asked if that was him, to which she confirmed.
Kerr then helped her get back to her car safely, at which point she called the police and reported her story.
Kerr says that when he saw the man, he seemed to be acting erratically.
“He was kind of going in and out of the bushes a little bit and kind of walking forward and doubling back a little bit. So it’s kind of unclear exactly what he was doing,” Kerr said to CHEK News.
“Or perhaps there was some mental health issues or something going on, it’s hard to really hard to really know. But I could imagine if I was a woman, walking alone in the park, and a guy was acting erratically, I’d be nervous as well. So I was just in the right place at the right time, and was happy to walk her back to her car.”
Kerr says from his experience, the area is typically busy with lots of people around. After the incident he reached out to the bylaw officer to see if this was a one off, or a recurring situation.
“I hope the authorities can deal with it appropriately and that people feel safe in our town and feel safe in our community like they always do,” Kerr said.
“I think it’s always worthwhile to talk as a community of how we can keep our public places safe, whether it’s downtown or whether it’s parks. I’m happy to have that conversation with our town administration and bylaw and see what we can do to keep people safe, and not just be safe, but also feel safe in our community.”
RCMP have reached out to Kerr and he will be providing a statement.
Sense of safety shaken
The woman says this incident has shaken her sense of safety in the community, and she no longer feels like she can safely walk alone.
“It is kind of sad that I feel like I can’t go on a walk in a nature park alone anymore,” she said. “So many people say ‘Well, use the buddy system.’ Of course that’s a great idea, but does that mean if I can’t find a buddy I can’t go on a walk that day?”
On the other hand, she says the Kerr’s response, as well as community response, has made her realize how great the community is.
“We do live in a small town where you can ask a random stranger to escort you to your car and they will,” she said. “We really do all look out for each other here.”
RCMP say they are investigating this report, as well as the three additional similar reports.
“We want to assure the public that our Special Victims Unit is actively investigating these reports. We are diligently gathering evidence and conducting interviews with witnesses,” Const. Monika Terragni, media relations officer at Comox Valley RCMP.
“We kindly request anyone who may have observed any suspicious behaviour in the area recently or has information about these incidents to come forward.”
The woman in the MacDonald Wood Park incident says she was initially hesitant to report what happened because she wasn’t sure police would act on it.
“But I did report it,” she said. “The police have followed up with me multiple times every day, and they’ve even offered me extra protection two different days, since Friday. So they have actually been so helpful and amazing.”
“Don’t be afraid to report any incidents, even if it’s small. What the police explained to me is that you might think a small incident is totally unrelated, but if you phone and report it, it can actually help catch something much bigger that you don’t know what’s going on.”
Anyone with information about these incidents is asked to call the Comox Valley RCMP detachment at (250) 338-1321, and refer to file 2023-16776.