In the wake of a rash of social media posts regarding alleged abduction attempts in B.C. — and news stories of police departments determining they are unfounded — the intent behind a suspicious occurrence in Kamloops remains a mystery.
Just before 11 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 5, two Kamloops women were given a scare after pulling into the parking lot of the Planet Woman gym in Valleyview.
One of the women, who did not wish to have her name published, said she had just turned off her vehicle and the pair was about to leave the vehicle when two men in a white Honda Civic parked unusually close to her passenger side door.
Suspicious of two men being at a ladies’ only gym and parking right beside her vehicle in an empty lot, she locked her doors as the driver of the Honda left his vehicle, without saying anything, and pulled on multiple back passenger door handles of her van.
“It freaked me out quite a bit, to be honest,” she said. “I’m glad I hit that lock button because I don’t know what would have happened if I didn’t.”
The woman reversed out of the stall immediately, nearly hitting the man’s foot.
Her passenger took down the Honda’s licence plate number and they drove across the street to another parking lot, from where they called the police.
The Honda appeared to have followed them.
“They had eyes on us and they pulled into a separate parking lot so they could see us and started driving back towards me again, so I had to move again.
“And it looked like they finally left when they realized I was on the phone,” the woman said.
Kamloops RCMP confirmed receiving this report and said police followed up with the registered owner of the vehicle.
Police said the man said he had mistakenly thought the woman’s van was someone else’s and apologized.
Police then followed up with the woman who made the report, Const. Crystal Evelyn said.
The woman said an officer was in contact with her later that night to tell her the man had mistakenly tried to enter her car.
She said the officer called her back the next morning to say the man admitted to being there for a drug deal, but that there was nothing crime-related with which police could follow through.
“It just didn’t make any sense,” the woman said. “Why would they approach a random van, seeing two women inside of it, and then try yanking on my vehicle doors? I don’t know how drug deals work, but I feel like that was really weird.”
She said she is disappointed with how her call was handled and considered filing a complaint.
The woman said she had heard recent rumours of abduction attempts and, at the time, that thought crossed her mind.
“They were very scary individuals,” she said.
Looking back on the experience, she said she is not sure what their intent was, but she doesn’t believe the men were there for a drug deal.
A separate report from Sunday involved a woman calling police to report a suspicious occurrence.
Evelyn said a woman reported being at the Real Canadian Superstore in Kamloops at 6:45 p.m., when a male passenger in a pickup truck asked her for change so he could use a shopping cart.
Evelyn said the woman got startled and left the area, but there was nothing to suggest she was being followed after that.
Evelyn said police had no other reports from the weekend that may have matched the description of an abduction attempt, noting any that do will be flagged by a watch commander and the public notified if public safety is at risk.
“In this case, it appears this was a misunderstanding, fortunately, and there’s been nothing that I’m aware of to suggest anyone is out there actively looking to abduct people,” Evelyn said.
In any event, police advise people to always be aware and alert of their surroundings.
People should avoid distractions such as cellphones and earbuds, avoid confrontations, wear bright-coloured clothing, walk in pairs or groups and call police if they feel unsafe or see a crime in progress.
As for people who may be reacting to second- and third-hand social media reports of alleged events, Evelyn advised people to ask themselves: Who is providing the information?
“Is it a first-hand account? Is it a third-party report? Do you know the person it happened to? Is it a shared post? And so on,” Evelyn said.
She added that when third-hand information is shared without being verified, it can cause unnecessary alarm and fear, noting it is always good to slow down and verify the information.
“That being said, police take possible abductions extremely seriously,” Evelyn said.
“We encourage the public to report suspicious activities immediately and directly to police, not through social media.
“Police need to be able to investigate information received and gather evidence and, to do that, the incident needs to be reported to police directly.”