POLICE

Man facing misdemeanor charge after grocery store incident involving teenage girls

Apr 8, 2021, 2:05 PM

EAGLE MOUNTAIN, Utah — A man may face a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct after an alleged encounter between a man and a group of teenage girls at a grocery store last week, according to investigators with the Utah County Sheriff’s Office

This comes after deputies responded to the incident at Ridley’s Family Market on March 31 with reports that a man — later identified as 78-year-old Kenneth Strickland — grabbed one of the teenage girls and made inappropriate comments. One of the girls, Claire Espinoza, said the man was following their group around the grocery store and making improper remarks to several other women. 

“He kept just going up to random girls, even if they were just older, younger — it didn’t matter,” Espinoza told KSL TV. “He’d just go up and talk to them about their body, I guess.”

Her mother, Kate Espinoza, said the man also talked about taking the girls out of the country. 

“He said that he wanted to take them to Mexico because in Mexico men can do anything they want to little girls,” she said.

After the incident, the group posted about their experience on social media — drawing significant community concern and calls for police action. 

Over a week later, Utah County Sergeant Spencer Cannon said detectives officially submitted their case to prosecutors recommending a disorderly conduct charge against Strickland. Had the situation escalated, Cannon said the charges would be more severe. 

“We think it meets the elements,” Cannon said. “I think the girls did the right thing. They were just being polite. This man was talking to them and they didn’t have initial reason to be concerned. The grabbing the arm wasn’t what concerned them. It’s what he was talking about that caused the concern, and then the grabbing the arm brings into focus — wait a minute, he’s talking about this, why did he grab (her) by the arm.”

Kate Espinoza said she was pleased with the outcome of the case, bringing a sense of accountability to the incident. 

“I do feel a little bit of a victory because he is going to be held accountable to something, which is huge,” she said late Wednesday.

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