CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A Ballantyne woman is warning her neighbors after an unknown man jumped out of a van, approached her and was persistent with questions.
She was so scared by the man she ran off with her dog.
"I was very afraid, I was very afraid," said Deb Verderame, who lives at the Ballantyne Country Club.
Verderame said she was walking her dog Lizzy in the middle of the day when she walked past a van with its side door open and a man inside.
"As soon as I started to approach, he jumped out to go find me and that's when it felt like he was lying in wait," she explained.
Verderame said the man asked if Lizzy needed water. Deb said no, but the man persisted.
"He kept saying, 'Are you sure?' And kind of trying to get me to come over to the van. That just really raised red flags for me," she said.
After sternly declining, instinct kicked in, and Deb started running, unsure if the stranger was going to follow her. She recalled that when she looked back, the man in the van was turning around and panic set in.
"There was nobody around, so even though there are all these houses, I felt very alone," Verderame said.
Other neighbors said they also saw the van. Some thought it was so odd, they told their children to get inside. Verderame got home and started questioning what if.
She first thought it could have been someone's grandfather who was trying to be nice, but she knew something was very off about the scenario.
"He should know better than approaching women or children in that manner," she said.
She decided to report it to security who told her to call police. She did so and is now urging neighbors to do the same.
"If I got away, that's great. But what if someone else reported it, and they didn't get away, and then I would feel really bad," Verderame said. "If you feel unsafe, then it's OK to call 911."
The Ballantyne Residential Property Owners Association sent a letter to neighbors and asked that they always call police if folks see anything suspicious.
"They will determine what next steps should be taken. They will not judge you. They want our active participation," the letter read. "Time is of the essence in these situations."
Verderame said the van was grey, like a silver grey. She described the man as a white man possibly in his late 60s wearing a wool fedora hat.