A man was arrested and charged after police say he attempted to force his way into a woman’s car and kidnap her in a packed and well-lit grocery store parking lot in Methuen, Massachusetts.
Rafael Rosario, 53, of Lawrence, was charged with strangulation, attempted kidnapping, attempted carjacking, and assault and battery after the Friday night incident.
"That's really scary because we come here all the time," one woman said.
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"Pretty scared," a second woman added. "I shop here all the time."
A third woman echoed the sentiment saying, "It's pretty scary."
Methuen police responded to the Market Basket located at 186 Haverhill Street around 7:50 p.m. after a 911 caller reported an attempted carjacking.
Responding officers spoke to a woman who told them she was in her car with the door closed when a man, later identified as Rosario, allegedly forced his way in without her permission, grabbed her by the throat and pushed her further into the vehicle.
"He was pushing her into the car, not trying to drag her out of the car so he was in our opinion attempting to take her and the vehicle," Captain Kristopher McCarthy said.
The victim told police she feared for her life, so she started screaming for help and beeping her car horn to get someone’s attention.
A witness who had just pulled into the parking space across from the victim in a pickup truck saw the commotion and intervened.
"He was quite the hero for us and that woman," Captain McCarthy said of the Good Samaritan.
Police say Rosario then exited the woman’s car and ran across the parking lot toward the area of Hobson Street.
The male witness told the victim to call 911 and briefly chased Rosario before stopping and waiting for police to arrive.
“I would like to commend the brave citizen who witnessed this incident and sprang into action to help,” Police Chief Joseph Solomon said. “However, chasing after a suspect is something that can be extremely dangerous and we ask all residents that find themselves in an emergency to call 911 and let our officers take over from there.”
Responding officers searched the area of Hobson Street and, a short time later, they found Rosario lying in the snow along a fence in the back corner of a property. He was arrested without further incident.
EMTs from the Methuen Fire Department responded to the grocery store parking lot to treat the victim, who declined further medical treatment.
“We are all very glad to hear that the victim in this case was not seriously injured," Mayor James Jajuga said. "Incidents like this should serve as a reminder for everyone to be mindful of your surroundings, even in a busy parking lot.”
“As a woman I think it just scares you because it’s at the point where you can’t just get groceries for your family and kids without being concerned for your safety and anything can happen at any moment,” a female grocery shopper said.
Rosario, who is known to police, is expected to be arraigned Monday in Lawrence District Court. It’s unclear if he has an attorney.