Masked person has local parents vigilant against 'stranger danger'

8:53 PM, May 13, 2013   |    comments
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KUSA - For the past month, parents living in a Lakewood apartment complex say someone dressed in a mask has been talking to their kids while they aren't around.

The encounters have them on heightened alert because of local and national headlines involving strangers and children.

The kids told Jessica Peterson, one of the parents, whoever it was had approached the kids four times.

"My first thoughts were somebody luring children," she said.

All of the parents in the complex thought it was an adult, or an older teenager.

Peterson says the first time parents spotted the person was Saturday night. Several of the adults tried chasing him through nearby woods, but say he got away.

9NEWS was at the apartment complex Sunday to report on the concerns over this masked person when several of the parents spotted him hiding in a tree during an interview.

After a short chase the person stopped and took off his mask. The person, who 9NEWS is not identifying, said he was only 14-years-old.

Lakewood Police were called and they interviewed the 14-year-old, along with the parents and their children.

The teenager was only ticketed for trespassing.

Officers say, despite the odd and unsettling behavior, it wasn't illegal, but say the parents did the right thing by calling police with their suspicions.

"It's important to document that odd behavior sometimes," Lakewood Police spokesman Steve Davis said. "Either with other neighbors, school officials, maybe the police, in some cases. It doesn't mean it's criminal in nature at the time but to document it. Maybe in the future something happens where we can look back then and say 'alright here's a bit of history.'"

Parents say they're glad they know who to watch out for now, but are still concerned because police aren't able to take any legal action against the teen.

Peterson says because of the incidents with the masked teen, her kids are afraid to go outside by themselves.

"It's brought the children closer together because they're looking out for each other," she said. "[My son] didn't want to go out until he went over to another friend's house and brought another friend out to play with. None of them want to be left alone anymore without another kid to play with and an adult."

The teenager's mom did not want to comment, but said the entire incident was a big "misunderstanding."

(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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