It has become known as “the white van story” and the topic has taken community dialogue hostage and filled my inbox. With rumors on the rise, I went searching for one solid version of events in hopes of providing some rational perspective and a little bit of peace. Because you know, being a totally level headed and super fact oriented kind of girl, this is right up my alley.
So on Monday I met with 4 members of the UPPD; Chief Gary Adams, Sergeant James Savage, Captain Greg Spradlin and Captain Leon Holman. Later that day, I spoke with the mom who wrote the original e-mail warning about the suspicious white van (we’ll call her Mom 1).
First, let me be very clear. I do NOT think Mom 1 is to blame for the mass hysteria. She was acting calmly and in the best interest of her family and neighbors. In my opinion, she was NOT overreacting. But I think it’s like a game of telephone and somewhere along the way, someone didn’t hear it quite right.
In case you’ve missed it, here is the original e-mail sent by Mom 1 after she reported the incident to police.
Date: February 13, 2010 8:40:08 AM CST
Subject: Re: White Van
I just wanted to let everyone know that the white van was not the paper man. A man in a white van also tried to pick up a little girl on Daniel yesterday.
Please be careful.
Sent from my iPhone
On Feb 12, 2010, at 8:54 AM
Today my older girls were dusting snow off of our trees when a white van pulled up. A man with long grey brown hair smiled at them and got out of the van. He walked up to our neighbor’s house then came towards the girls. They ran inside and he jumped in the van and took off.
Please watch the kids today as they play outside.
Note: Mom 1 learned of the Daniel incident via another e-mail.
OK, here’s what I’ve got.
If you’ll remember, Chief Gary Adams told us UPPD had received 4 calls about the suspicious white van. I was under the impression that that meant 4 separate citizens made 911 calls about the same van. But that isn’t quite accurate. The four calls were made by 2 people, here’s the breakdown.
Call 1: Mom 1 called UPPD on Friday, February 12, 2010 about the incident described in her e-mail.
She recapped the incident for me: Her 8 and 9 year old daughters told her a man with a 3-4 inch beard in a white van had blocked their driveway, walked up to the house next door, looked in the neighbor’s window and then approached her girls in the driveway. Her girls ran into the house to alert her and by the time (within seconds) she got outside, the van was speeding away.
Officers patrolled the neighborhood and did not find anyone matching the description but continued searching and remained on high alert.
Call 2: Saturday, February 13, 2010 (the day after the incident) at 12:42 p.m., one of the original e-mail recipients (we’ll call her Mom 2) called UPPD and reported seeing a van that met Mom 1’s description.
6 minutes later, at 12:48 p.m., Sergeant Savage pulled over a white van that met the description, just 2 blocks away. Savage noted the van was full of newspapers and that he had seen the man tossing papers into yards moments before. Savage ran the driver through a criminal and sex offender check, nothing was found. The driver confirmed he had been in the neighborhood the day before.
Moments after Savage completed his interaction with the driver of the van, he was approached by a man with a little girl. The man identified himself as a resident of Daniel. He told Savage that he’d walked his child over so she could tell him if the driver was the same man who had talked to her yesterday as she built a snowman. The unidentified man had asked her if she was going to use a carrot for a nose. It frightened her and the parents were obviously concerned. The parents determined it was a case of an overly nice paper delivery man and did not report the incident to police.
Savage asked the child if it was the same man and the same van, she said it was.
Call 3: Saturday, February 13, 2010 1:29 p.m., UPPD received a call from the home of Mom 1. The caller reported that the van Savage had just pulled over was not the one they had called about yesterday.
Call 4: On Wednesday, February 17, 2010 at 1:29 p.m. (5 days after the original call) Mom 2 appeared at the police station reporting that several parents have seen the same van in the area and she wanted to know what police were doing to investigate. She was told that the man they pulled over had no criminal history but they would continue to investigate and assured her they were taking the concerns very seriously.
No other reports have been received by UPPD. UPPD has shared the information with HP DPS. HP DPS confirmed they have not received any related reports.
UPDATE: One more thought. I’ve tried to figure out why, with all of the e-mails like this circulating, did THIS one create such a frenzy. I believe it is because Mom 1 is very credible. Everyone knows her, she’s not into drama, she’s always very calm and rational. So, hey, Mom1, at least now you know that you have more power than you ever thought possible. Though we all know you’d rather find that out a different way.
UPDATE 2: Mom 1 has pointed out that the man who approached her girls had a 3-4 inch gray beard and the paper delivery man had a short black beard.