Tips come in, still concern after man gropes girls

Similar incidents have happened at area Walmarts in recent years

MIDDLEBURG, Fla. – Tips are coming in by the dozens as deputies continue to search for the man they said groped two middle school girls at a Middleburg Walmart on Tuesday afternoon.

Clay County deputies said the man seen in surveillance photos followed the girls, groped them and touched them inappropriately, then got away.

Detectives said since the information was released to the media Wednesday, they've gotten dozens of tips. Now they hope they can find the man before he acts again.

"I'm concerned about those little girls, and even boys," resident Sonia Shenker said.

Deputies said the 5-foot-2 inch, 225 pound Hispanic man seen in surveillance photos at one point lifted one of the girl's shirts and kissed her on the abdomen. That came after he invited them to his house, offering them "ice cream, pizza and movies."

The girls got away unharmed.

Detectives said a parent of one of the girls was just a few aisles away when the incident happened. The girls told them about what happened and they told store security and the Sheriff's Office.

Similar things have happened at area Walmarts. Last year, Steven Sours (pictured below on left) was convicted of groping a 13-year-old girl at a Walmart in East Arlington. He was given five years probation and must register as a sex offender.

Steven Sours and Jason Brackett
Steven Sours and Jason Brackett

In 2004, Jason Brackett (pictured on right) grabbed a 9-year-old girl at a Fleming Island Walmart. He was convicted and sentenced to eight years in prison and 15 years probation because he was already a sex offender.

"I think that it's terrible that you can't even go into a store and let your kids just be looking at something even when they are teenagers without some man wanting to grab them," said Joan Anderson, a great-grandmother.

It's a danger 15-year-old Brooke Bassler takes seriously. She said she's always keeping an eye out.

"My mom has always taught me to never go anywhere alone, to always stay in a group," Bassler said. "So I usually stay in a group. I don't go anywhere without my friends."

A Walmart official said employees continue to cooperate with investigators as they try to find the man. Channel 4 has heard he was also spotted at a Walmart on Jacksonville's Westside, but there's no reason to believe he committed any crimes there.

Anyone with any information on this incident or the man's whereabouts is asked to call the Sheriff's Office at 904-264-6512.