Walking through Pleasant Ridge Town Center on Tuesday was an eerie experience for Laura Jones.
“It’s unnerving to kind of relive, because, you know, the shock of it, after it happened, it just, things get jumbled up,” she said, searching for the right words. “And seeing and validating every spot of, like, where this happened and what happened next, and where was I and where was he, it kind of just made it real.”
She revisited her shock and her memories to warn other women after what she describes as a frightening encounter she had at the shopping center on Monday.
She left the complex after shopping Monday evening. As she drove through the parking lot, a man in a red car turned a corner, drove his car right up to hers, and trapped her. “And he got out of his car and approached my driver’s side window,” Jones recalled. “And then started telling me that I hit him.”
Jones rolled down her window and denied his accusations. “I didn’t hit anything, I didn’t hit anyone, and I knew that for a fact,” she stated Tuesday. “My radio wasn’t up loud. I would’ve realized if I had made any kind of impact with anybody.”
That’s when Jones claims the man tried to lure her out of her car. “And he said, ‘come see my car,’” she mentioned. “And he started saying those things, like, repeatedly, about four times. ‘Come out and see my car. I can show you where you hit me. I can prove it to you. I need you to be more careful. I need you to get out of your car where you hit me.’”
Jones said she offered to make phone calls to involve the police and file insurance claims, but at that point, the man admitted there was no damage to his car. She said he quickly got back into his car and sped off, swerving around other cars on his way out of the complex onto Cantrell Road.
“And just, at that point,” she said, “it hit me that, you know, something already didn’t feel right, which is why I didn’t get out of my car and I refused. But at that point, I realized something more was going on.”
Jones said Tuesday she does not know what the man’s intentions might have been, whether he wanted to scam her into paying for prior car damage, if he would have stolen her car, kidnapped her, or something else.
“I was pretty alarmed,” she recalled, “and just very firm, somehow. Just very firm, and stood my ground, and for some reason, that feeling, that gut feeling, just kind of kept me calm in the moment. But as soon as he left, I felt very fearful and very shocked, with the realization that I could’ve been in, really, a lot of danger.”
She is convinced, however, that her refusal to leave her car made the difference. “Just thinking back on it,” Jones said, “I know that that’s not characteristic of me. My usual response would be to go ahead and get out, and to say, ‘oh my gosh,’ and check and see if my car was damaged, especially.”
“But there was just something different about this time where I had to follow my gut feeling and just stay put.”
After meeting with a police officer, she wrote on her Facebook page about what she experienced. Within 24 hours, her remarks had been shared nearly 20,000 times, and more than 2,700 people commented on her post.
Jones said she did not expect more than a few people to find out about what she had been through. “I was thinking about, just, all of the women that I work closely with, and all of my friends and neighbors, just heightening their awareness,” she explained.
But she is heartened that so many people know what happened to her, so that, hopefully, it will not happen to them, as well.
“It just really resonates with me,” she said, “that this won’t be the last time that he tries this, and I want women to be ready and prepared.
“I think it can also teach women that, like, even a normal situation, you just don’t let someone overpower you and make you feel like you need to do something that you’re not comfortable with.”
Sources with the Little Rock Police Department and Pleasant Ridge Town Center told THV11 that there was no surveillance footage of the incident. According to the police department’s report of the incident, there is no evidence of a crime. Jones, though, said this still will change her.
“I would probably take new light on any situation that looks and seems appropriate, that really does seem normal, and I’ll probably second guess that now,” she said, “and just air on the side of caution.”
Jones described the man as being white, roughly 5-feet-7-inches tall, with a large build. She said he was wearing a padded, or possibly bulletproof, vest, and was driving a red, four-door car.
© 2018 KTHV-TV