Social media report of shopper accosted at Market Basket causes alarm

Police investigated a social media report claiming that a man had accosted a female shopper at the Epping Market Basket, but as of Monday afternoon the alleged incident was still unfounded.

A social media post claiming that a man pursued a female shopper at the Epping Market Basket caused quite a stir, but as of Monday, Epping police said they had received no calls from a victim or any witnesses.

“We just started getting inundated with calls from people that were afraid and wanted to know if this happened,” Sgt. Stephen Soares said.

The post apparently originated on Epping Squawks, a popular community Facebook page, on Sunday afternoon and was shared on other pages. Soares said it appears the original post was removed.

The post claimed a “friend’s niece” was accosted by a man in the parking lot who allegedly approached the woman from behind and offered to help carry her groceries. The woman declined and the man became “mad” and walked off, according to the post.

Frightened, the woman got into her car and locked the doors. When she attempted to leave, a gray van with the man and a driver was blocking her from behind, the poster reported.

The post claimed that two people saw the incident and when one of them approached the van it sped off.

Market Basket management called police to report the social media chatter, but Soares said police weren’t aware of any incident until someone else from another business in the shopping plaza saw the Facebook post and notified them.

Soares said Market Basket surveillance video was reviewed as part of the investigation.

Epping police eventually turned to their own Facebook page to say that no victim or witnesses had contacted police.

While similar scenarios in store parking lots in other parts of the country have been deemed hoaxes, Soares said he can’t say with “100% certainty” that it didn’t happen.

“In my opinion, if something that serious happened and if there were legitimate witnesses and a vehicle description, I would have expected at least one person to call,” Soares said.

He encouraged anyone with information to call the police department at 679-5122.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020