FAIRLAWN, Ohio – Aggressive behavior by a pair of men at Summit Mall frightened a teenaged shopper and prompted a police investigation, though detectives determined no crime was committed.
Kendra Bala-Rothschild, 18, of Akron said she was at the mall Monday preparing for her upcoming prom at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School when two men approached her. She said one of the men, who had a thick Italian accent, did most of the talking and grabbed her hand to pull her closer.
She said the man asked if she had a boyfriend, asked for a kiss in exchange for money, asked her age and asked to take her to her car. She said he also showed her several thousand dollars in cash.
“He was trying to get me to leave with him,” Bala-Rothschild said. “I was shocked that it happened. I never would've thought something like that would've happened to me.”
Bala-Rothschld said she had recently attended a presentation on human trafficking and the encounter seemed suspicious, so she reported it to mall security and police. She then posted about the incident on Facebook. The post has been shared more than 8,000 times since Monday.
“I had hundreds of girls messaging me and sharing it and quoting my tweet saying they were approached by those same two men,” she said.
Fairlawn Police investigators said they traced the men to a hair product kiosk they operated at Strongsville’s Southpark Mall.
“He denied that he was even at Summit Mall,” Fairlawn Detective Dave Zampelli said. “But we know from talking to this young girl and another girl that was approached, they said it was definitely him.”
Zampelli said he investigated the men and their backgrounds and determined the incident was not criminal because Bala-Rothschild was not physically threatened or harmed.
“Although his behavior was extremely bizarre and inappropriate, it just did not meet the elements of a crime,” he said.
He said the pair were known for aggressive sales tactics at their kiosk, which was closed Thursday.
A spokesperson for Summit Mall provided the following statement to FOX 8 News:
“The safety of Summit Mall shoppers and employees is our top priority and we ask those who see something suspicious to aid in our efforts. Guests should always feel free to contact mall security if they witness suspicious behavior or ever feel uncomfortable.”
Police said anyone concerned about strange behavior should contact authorities. “In this case, she did everything properly. She had a gut instinct something wasn't right, so she did the thing and report it,” Zampelli said.