An unidentified man caught on camera is a suspect in two different random attacks in Lehigh Acres last week.
The man in the photos is suspected of a battery on a 40-year-old woman at a Dollar Tree store on Lee Boulevard on Jan. 13. Deputies say he randomly struck the victim inside the store without provocation and walked out. Detectives believe this same man battered a 70-year-old man in the parking lot of the Walmart Supercenter at 2523 Lee Blvd. on Jan. 12 at around 10:40 a.m. It was a random attack where the suspect walked towards the victim’s vehicle and began punching him.
The suspect is described as being in his early to mid-thirties, approximately 5’9 and heavyset. He either has short hair or is bald. The suspect left the assaults in a red, late model Chrysler or Dodge Minivan.
Investigators say neither of the two people the man attacked knew him.
Shoppers in the area where the attacks happened say they’ve always felt safe, but just because they feel safe, doesn’t mean they won’t be a little extra cautious moving forward.
Pam Young said, “how can you watch for that, you know? He probably just comes out of nowhere. So, you know that wouldn’t be an easy thing to plan ahead for.”
After hitting a woman at the Dollar Tree on Lee Boulevard, investigators say what appears to be the same man attacked another person at Walmart. Leaving shoppers with an uneasy feeling.
“I actually didn’t want to carry my purse, but my purse is always loaded anyways. So, now, I’ll definitely be carrying my purse. But I usually feel really safe here,” said Trish, who was shopping in the area where the attacks took place.
Some shoppers say this is one of the reasons why they always go out in public with a plan.
Robin Derryberry said, “I park where a car can’t be beside me getting into my truck. When I leave, my keys are always ready. Most of my stuff is packed in my cart, so it’s a quick in, and you’re in the truck and go.”
Crimestoppers say you don’t need to be afraid, but they do want you to be aware.
“A man approaches the vehicle. And he assumes that it’s somebody from Walmart telling him, it’s his turn. As soon as he starts to get out of the car, that suspect pushed the man in the chest, knocking back a bit, and then started attacking him,” said CrimeStoppers’ Trish Route.
Route released video of the suspect the Lee County Sheriff’s Office is searching for.
An employee who was working during the attacks said the guy, who appeared to be in his 30s, didn’t raise any alarms.
“Not even ten minutes went by and some lady in aisle four was screaming, ‘he just assaulted me! I didn’t do nothing to him he just assaulted me somebody stop him!'”
The employee said nothing about the man seemed odd, “and trust me I see my fair share of my weird customers but nothing out of the ordinary or anything like that.”
Route said, “he comes up behind her knocks in the back of the head in the neck, and then takes off again, just as in the first attack, there was no altercation, there were no words exchanged, there was no, no reason for this attack at all.”
Because random attacks like this are so rare, detectives fear the suspect is likely going through a mental health crisis.
Detectives believe the man likely lives or works in this area. Investigators think he took off in a red, late model Chrysler or Dodge minivan.
Shoppers say they’ll feel a little extra peace of mind when they hear he’s behind bars.
“Oh definitely. Especially because I’m usually here with my children. So, yeah, that really scares me,” said Trish.
If you can identify him, call SWFL Crime Stoppers at 1-800-780-TIPS. Tipsters are always anonymous and may qualify for a cash reward of up to $3,000.