Groveland Police launch criminal investigation after woman followed, questioned by man

21-year-old biracial woman followed by man while picking up free dog food

GROVELAND, Mass. — A criminal investigation is now underway after a resident filed a police report stating she had been followed through a neighborhood by a man in a car.

A portion of the exchange was recorded, and the video was posted on Facebook, drawing more than 500 comments.

Boston 25 News is not identifying the woman, who is Black, nor the man, who is white.

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The 21-year-old woman told Boston 25 News that she was feeling hurt.

“I saw a post on the Groveland town page saying that someone had excess dog food that they were looking to give away,” the woman said.

A three-minute portion of the incident was captured on a cell phone from the woman’s car. She had driven to Juniper Terrace Monday afternoon after seeing a Facebook post from another resident who was giving away extra dog food.

She grabbed her dog, and took a 6 minute ride away from her Groveland house. As she grabbed the dog food from the person’s front lawn, she says, she noticed a man in a BMW convertible following her. We blurred the man’s face, because police haven’t released his name, and he hasn’t been charged with a crime.

A portion of the exchange was recorded, and the video was posted on Facebook.

In the video, the man pulled alongside her parked car and asked her numerous questions about her stop on Juniper Terrace. The following is a transcription of that portion of the video:

  • WOMAN: “Actually, if you want to look at the Town Crier, someone offered a bag of dog food, which I have in the back of my vehicle.”
  • MAN: “On, on, on…[inaudible]”
  • WOMAN: “On Juniper, yup.”
  • MAN: “On Juniper Terrace? Where, where?”
  • WOMAN: “That doesn’t matter.”

The woman later said she did not feel safe, before the man responded:

“I don’t feel safe with you driving around my neighborhood,” he told her.

She asked if it was due to the color of her skin; he said it was not.

The 21-year-old said the man followed her for at least a mile.

“Once I started to get closer to my house I’m like, ‘This guy is definitely following me.' I started to get really nervous,” said the woman.

“I really feel it was racially motivated. If it was any other white person that just drove up there, I don’t think he would be suspicious,” said the woman.

Police said they spoke with both parties involved and are working with the Essex District Attorney’s Office to determine possible charges.

“The fact that she brought up her race, that even is more concerning. So we are looking into that as maybe another crime, was she targeted or what was the reason for this?” said Jeffrey Gillen, the Groveland Chief of Police. “This is simply a person who was in a neighborhood for a legitimate reason and, again, [there’s] no crime for being in a neighborhood.”

Police said the man is known to authorities following interactions with other people, but did not specify the nature of those issues.

Boston 25 attempted to get a comment from the man several times throughout the day, but a landscaping truck was barricading the entrance to his house, which is up on a hill. Boston 25 also left multiple messages on the man’s voicemail and he did not respond with a comment.

The woman told Boston 25 News she wants people to learn from this and get out of the small town bubble mentality.

“This situation has given us all a collective pause,” Town Finance Director Denise Dembkoski said. “Groveland seeks to be a safe and welcoming community for all. Anyone should be able to drive or walk on any street without being made to feel like a criminal. I join in the outrage and collective anger felt by our residents but am moved by the support offered to the victim in this case. It is my sincere hope that our community will see this moment for what it is and come together to participate in a dialog about how we treat one another. It is unacceptable that a young Black woman should have the presumption of wrongdoing for driving in her own hometown–or anyone else’s hometown, neighborhood or street for that matter.  No one should be made to feel unsafe or unwelcome when they have done nothing wrong, and I am pleased that the Groveland Police Department and Chief Jeffrey Gillen have acted swiftly and aggressively.”

“This situation has given us all a collective pause. Groveland seeks to be a safe and welcoming community for all. Anyone should be able to drive or walk on any street without being made to feel like a criminal. I join in the outrage and collective anger felt by our residents but am moved by the support offered to the victim in this case. It is my sincere hope that our community will see this moment for what it is and come together to participate in a dialog about how we treat one another. It is unacceptable that a young Black woman should have the presumption of wrongdoing for driving in her own hometown–or anyone else’s hometown, neighborhood or street for that matter. No one should be made to feel unsafe or unwelcome when they have done nothing wrong, and I am pleased that the Groveland Police Department and Chief Jeffrey Gillen have acted swiftly and aggressively.”
Denise Dembkoski, Finance Director for the Town of Groveland