An observant shopper in San Diego’s North County helped lead deputies to a man suspected in a series of sexual assaults at stores around San Marcos and Vista, officials confirmed.
Just after 5 p.m. Monday, a customer at a Walmart located along the 700 block of Center Drive in San Marcos called the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department to report a man believed to be the suspect in a recent series of sexual battery and lewd conduct incidents in the area.
The customer had recognized the man as the suspect from previous reports. Just last week, the sheriff’s department released images of the suspect who had been caught on tape inappropriately touching shoppers at stores in San Diego’s North County.
The SDSO said the shopper stayed on the phone with the sheriff’s department until deputies arrived at the Walmart store. The caller then led deputies to the suspect inside the store.
The man was arrested and booked into the Vista Detention Facility, SDSO Sgt. Albert Carrillo said. Investigators know his name, but Carrillo said he won’t be identified yet because the investigation is ongoing.
“He is believed to be the person responsible for a series of sexual battery incidents being investigated by the San Marcos Sheriff’s Station and Vista Sheriff’s Station, as well as by the San Diego Police Department,” the SDSO said.
The suspect is facing several charges including lewd behavior in a public place and providing false identifying information to police. His bail was set at $500,000 Monday.
Carrillo said an additional eight counts of sexual battery in this case are pending.
Last week, the SDSO released images of the sex assault suspect captured on security cameras.
Officials said, at the time, the man was accused in at least three incidents at local retail stores where he walked up to women from behind, grabbed their shoulders and then pressed himself against their backsides.
When the startled victims turned to confront him, the man claimed he had confused them for being one of his friends.
The SDSO said the incidents happened at a Target on University Drive in Vista on Dec. 18, 2020, at a Michael’s store on University Drive in Vista on Dec. 24, and at a Ralph’s grocery store on South Twin Oaks Valley Road in San Marcos, also on Dec. 24.
Investigators said last week that the security video showed the suspect inappropriately touching himself underneath his clothing before and after the assaults. He was seen leaving the stores in a silver car.