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I was stalked for two years and had no idea

Brittanica Image Quest: Todd Gipstein / National Geographic Society

Brittanica Image Quest: Todd Gipstein / National Geographic Society

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As soon as the bell rang and I was dismissed  from my fifth hour class, I rushed out to my car in the gold lot to beat the lines in the parking lot after school. My sister and I distractedly jumped in the car, throwing our backpacks to the backseat of my two door Mini Cooper and started the car. I was immediately greeted by a “ding” alerting me that my tire pressure was low. I disregarded the alert, assuming my dad could just check the tires once I got home. I began backing out of my spot and realized something was very wrong with my tires. LIttle did I know the problems would extend much beyond my car’s tires.

I got out of the car to see which tire was flat, and to my horror, not one, but all four tires had been slashed. I went to get back in my car, only to see a horrible, incredibly degrading obscenity keyed into my car above the door handle on the driver’s side.

I got back into the car, confused and very upset and explained the situation to my even-more-confused sister.

After much discussion with my sister about who could have possibly done this, we recalled a rather strange Instagram account made in my dog’s name. Strange,  I know. But this account would occasionally direct message me, my friends or my family with messages usually pertaining to me or suggested that whoever ran the account knew me. Keep in mind, this person would not admit who they were and none of my friends or family had any idea who it could be. Again, strange, but at the time, there were no clear connections between the vandalism to my car and this social media account.

The direct messages from the account started out rather harmless but quickly began to grow more and more offensive and threatening, especially leading up to and directly following the vandalism. After meeting with Homestead’s School Resource Officer, Tarie Umhoefer, Officer Umhoefer agreed the messages were rather strange, but no clear connections could be made between the dog account and the vandalism.

As I was explaining the situation to one of my friends, she admitted that she received messages from the dog account as well as direct messages, again pertaining to me, from a separate personal account. The messages from this personal account that my friend received progressively got more unusual, often suggesting the owner of the account was romantically involved with me and that I had somehow wronged him even though I had no idea who this person was.

Out of curiosity, I visited the account myself. The account was private, so I couldn’t view it without following it, but there was a direct link to a YouTube channel in the account’s bio. I was horrified by what appeared after clicking the link: I had seen this person before.

I didn’t know this person’s name or anything about him really, but over the summer I would often bring my dog to Colectivo Coffee in Mequon ,and I would always see him staring at me and he would even occasionally approach me, and somehow always seemed to leave at the same time I did.

One of my other friends decided to follow his account out of curiosity and showed me photos from the account. All of his recent posts had captions about me, as well as a photo inside of Homestead, a shed in my neighborhood only three doors down from my house, both of which he took while working seasonally for UPS. He was also reposting photos from my social media accounts.

I brought this back to Officer Umhoefer, now very confident there was a connection between the owner of this account and the vandalism to my car. After some investigation, Officer Umhoefer was able to determine that this person is 24 years old, does not own a car, and resides in Brown Deer. The timestamps of the direct messages from that day allowed for a more specific time frame to look for in Homestead’s security camera footage from Feb. 12, the day my car was vandalised. Lo and behold, they found a lime green bike on the footage, and the same lime green bike was outside of his house when they went to arrest him.

After the suspect was arrested and brought into custody, he was interviewed by Officer Umhoefer. In this interview, he admitted to vandalizing my car, creating the fake accounts, and scariest of all, he admitted he had been watching me for the past two years. In the same interview, Officer Umhoefer also informed of the restraining order we had filed against him and his bone-chilling response was “when can I see her again?”

His bail was then posted at $7,500, and he is now facing Criminal Damage to Property and Computer-Message Threaten/Obscenity misdemeanors as well as a stalking felony.

Everything about this experience has been absolutely terrifying for my family and me. None of us have slept soundly since all of this has happened. We know we are safe now that he is in police custody, but knowing someone had been watching me for two entire years without any of us having any idea is obviously very emotionally draining.

It’s a sad reality to know the lengths people in this world will go to to get someone’s attention. This experience has significantly changed the way I look at the world and every person I encounter. It’s even more so sad that as a young woman, things like being stared at or being catcalled, or just generally made to feel uncomfortable have become far too normal in our society.

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I was stalked for two years and had no idea