MT. PLEASANT, SC (WCSC) - Police are investigating reports of a suspicious person driving a van around a Mt. Pleasant neighborhood, following children and photographing them.
The investigation into what one man described as a "stalker van" in Hamlin Plantation began last week, after a concerned neighbor showed up at the Mt. Pleasant Police Department on Mar. 19 to report an incident from early March.
The man told police he and his wife were driving back from Chick-fil-A on Mar. 2 between 12 and 3 p.m. when they noticed a white passenger van with a roof addition and a black cargo box pass their vehicle near the rear entrance of Hamlin Plantation, on Osmond Road near Griswold Street.
Paul Thacker recalled telling his wife the van looked like "a stalker van." As he turned left, the man said a young child on a skateboard flagged him down and told him the van was following him. The man said the child was visibly scared and said "please help me!" The man said he and his wife convinced the child to ride his skateboard back to a friend's house. The friend's mother alerted the HOA property manager.
"I'm just very thankful, very grateful that he stopped to help my son," said Yolanda Kopasky, the mother of the child who flagged down Thacker's vehicle, as she recounted her son's story. "He said at one point that the gentleman opened the door of the van, but he didn't get out."
While Thacker was talking to detectives, he also mentioned he heard from a neighbor that a man in a white van tried to take photos of a child on Mar. 16 or Mar. 17.
"My gut feeling is probably someone who's predatory that's trying to take one of these kids," said Thacker.
Last Thursday, police spoke with the skateboarder who claimed to have been followed on Mar. 2, who was able to draw a picture of the van. During the interview, police were also told another neighbor had reported being chased by a vehicle several weeks ago.
Detectives continued to another home, where a woman's three children said they saw the van as well, and that they thought the driver used a cell phone to take pictures of them.
The children described the driver as Hispanic.
Police sent out an alert to residents through Hamlin Plantation's homeowner's association.
The alert stated the man in the van may be using a high quality camera with zoom capabilities.
The investigation is continuing, and extra patrols have been assigned to Hamlin Plantation, located near Rifle Range and Porchers Bluff roads.
If you have any information regarding the van or its driver, call Mt. Pleasant police at (843) 884-4176.