A TikToker who set out on a self-love journey accidentally captured a prolific stalker in the Burbank area — and as the footage continues to go viral, more unsettling details are rising to the surface.
For the past 20 days, Michaela Witter (@michaela.witter) has been filming herself embarking on “100 solo dates” for TikTok — dates like reading in the park, making homeless care kits or buying herself flowers.
“As someone who was always scared of eating by myself, some of these are going to be a challenge … but going on these dates has really been helping my confidence and love for myself,” Witter wrote in the caption of her first solo date video.
However, on day 20 of her solo date experiment, Witter encountered the reason why many women find it challenging to go solo in public.
While filming herself enjoying a day at Barnes & Noble and Starbucks (the randomly picked date for the day), Witter also captured a stranger following her throughout the store, kneeling under her legs, and sniffing her (and another nearby woman) repeatedly.
But since going viral, the footage has unearthed a string of similar attacks in the area, as victims are sharing their own eerily similar experiences in the comments — and in video footage of their own.
“When I posted the first TikTok about it, it was disturbing to hear how many women have experienced something similar to what happened to me,” Witter said in an exclusive statement to In The Know by Yahoo.
“But then to hear how many women were affected by this man specifically was even more shocking. It’s just so horrible that we can’t even feel safe going somewhere like a bookstore by ourselves.”
‘The ugly side of doing things solo as a woman…’
Witter’s now viral video begins like all of her past solo date installments. She pulls a date idea at random, heads to the location and films her experience on the date.
However, solo date number 20 ended up very differently from all the others, as Witter accidentally captured a prolific Burbank stalker harassing her and other Barnes & Noble customers.
In the video, a man sporting a tattoo near his right eye can be seen watching Witter, standing near her, crouching beneath her, then seemingly smelling her lower body. He repeats this action — then does the same to another nearby woman. All the while, Witter’s phone is capturing it all.
“The ugly side of doing things solo as a woman even in an open public space,” Witter’s video caption reads. “Stalking, harrassment, etc. has happened to me way too many times but this definitely ranks top 3 creepiest moments.”
Other Burbank victims come forward
As Witter’s footage spread across TikTok, other users began to come forward, asserting that they, too, had been harassed by the man in the video.
“BRO THAT SAME MAN WAS CROUCHING BEHIND ME AND FOLLOWING ME THRU MARSHALLS TODAY,” wrote TikTok user @nkaywalker, who later confirmed in a follow-up comment that the incident occurred in Burbank.
“The same thing happened to me at Ralph’s in burbank! don’t know if it’s the same guy but I notice him following me and crouching to the lowest level,” commented @kairi91.
“GIRLLL I JUST FOUND THIS he was following me and my bestie in ROSS and we told the security and then RAN to our car. We were scared to get trafficked,” wrote @mastermel.
However, one TikToker in particular provided evidence of an eerily similar incident — right down to the Barnes & Noble location.
TikTok user @artofethereality said that her experience with the Burbank stalker occurred in March of this year. When Witter’s video began to go viral, family members flagged the footage to @artofethereality, who immediately recognized the man from her own encounter — right down to the tattoo near his right eye.
“I’m just so glad I was able to catch it on camera so that his name and face are out there, especially for those in this area,” Witter told In The Know.
“I have heard from women about their interactions with him in Barnes & Noble, Urban Outfitters, Marshalls, Gap, Trader Joe's, Target, you name it. He has done this a lot and is still roaming free. I really hope that from this, the police or someone can do something to keep him from doing this to more women or even worse.”
‘The internet plays such a huge role in this’
The next day, empowered by viewers’ encouraging comments, Witter filed official reports with both Barnes & Noble and the Burbank Police Department, documenting the experience for TikTok.
“The internet plays such a huge role in this, because when I heard others say the same man did the same thing to them in the Burbank/Glendale area, it made me realize how serious this was,” Witter told In The Know.
“I was also flooded with the most beautiful supportive comments and messages that really gave me the courage to go back and report it to B&N (again) and the Burbank Police Department.”
Witter continued, “I also knew how powerful the internet was [when] people started looking into it immediately, and a day later, someone emailed me with his name, mugshot and criminal history, asking if it was him.”
An NBA player shared Witter’s TikTok, adding a similar story that happened to him, and alleging that he knew the identity of the man stalking and harassing Witter.
Internet sleuths have presented evidence of this man’s identity and criminal history on various social media platforms, but no arrests have been made at the time of publication of this article.
‘Not a single person is pointing out how staged this looks?’
While Witter received thousands of comments supporting her, she was also subjected to accusations of having faked the encounter.
“She’s recording herself doing what? Why was she randomly recording herself? Seems baited,” commented @marshmallow_muffins.
“The amount of people that think this is real is sickening. Y’all are real life bots,” wrote @ayobread_onkick.
“Not a single person is pointing out how staged this looks? The camera is literally right in front of him yet he did it anyway,” commented @rhyce.dev.
Some viewers also accused Witter of not being forceful enough in her confrontation with the man.
“GROW A BACKBONE AND KICK HIM IN THE HEAD YOU LET IT GO ON FOR TOO LONG,” commented @kallie_kattt.
“LOOK HIM IN THE EYE AND TELL HIM TO GET THE HELL AWAY FROM YOU!!! Stop being a victim, he doesn’t want that attention and he will stop!!!” @sarahpurswellnich.
In a follow-up video, Witter tearfully addressed such comments, saying they “made her sick.”
“It’s just crazy, because, if I didn’t film it, people wouldn’t believe that it happened. But even filming it, people still don’t believe me,” she said.
“I just hope the video raises awareness, especially for the Glendale/Burbank area, because he keeps doing this stuff, he’s still out there, and I’m sorry for everyone else who has experienced the same thing by him.”
‘I hope that this doesn’t stop women from doing the things they love by themselves’
“I think this experience has just brought to light so many things in regards to women’s safety (even in public spaces), the power of the internet, and how much this man has terrorized SO MANY women and even young girls, for what I’ve heard has been for at least 13 years,” Witter told In The Know.
“I hope that this doesn’t stop women from doing the things they love by themselves, but that it also is a warning that this is just another thing we have to be cautious of when going out, unfortunately.”
In The Know by Yahoo will continue to monitor the story and update this piece as more information comes forward.
If you feel you have been the victim of sexual assault or harassment, contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline 24/7 at 1-800-656-4673, or chat online with a trained staff member who can provide you confidential crisis support.
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