A man who allegedly committed a lewd act in the self-checkout line of a Palo Alto grocery store in January was arrested in Napa County for a similar incident that occurred earlier this week, according to Palo Alto police.
The man had been sought by Palo Alto police after an incident at the Safeway store at 2811 Middlefield Road on Jan. 26. The man stood close behind a woman in her 20s in the checkout line and surveillance footage showed that he allegedly masturbated near her, police said.
Outside the store, the woman noticed what she believed to be biological fluid on the back of her shirt and pants. She notified police the next day.
Police distributed a news release and video footage of the man and his car. A woman in her 40s then contacted police to report that the same man had followed her around the Palo Alto Safeway on the same day. The man was also connected to a similar crime at a grocery store in Santa Clara on Feb. 13.
Detectives were able to identify the man as Christian Alpha Roberts, 27, of Oakland, and submitted a case to the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office for review. They obtained an arrest warrant for him on April 14 charging him with misemeaanor sexual battery, battery and indecent exposure for the incidents in Palo Alto and Santa Clara. Detectives went out to serve the warrant but could not locate Roberts.
On May 2 at 7 p.m., a similar crime occurred in the Walmart store at 7011 Main St. in American Canyon in Napa County involving a suspect whose description matched the previous lewd conduct cases. A man in that incident came close to a woman and her children twice and made contact with the woman's buttocks.
The man, later identified as Roberts, allegedly apologized for touching her and fled the area, but the woman felt a liquid substance on her clothing after he made contact with her. Investigators reviewed surveillance video that showed he allegedly masturbated behind the woman, police said.
Police and Napa County sheriff's deputies identified where Roberts was thought to be staying in Vallejo, and arrested him on May 4 at 11:30 a.m. Police said he admitted to the acts committed at the Walmart. He was arrested on suspicion of misdemeanor sexual battery, indecent exposure and annoying/molesting children, according to the American Canyon Police Department.
Palo Alto detectives collaborated with investigators from the Napa County Sheriff's Office, which also served the arrest warrant for the Palo Alto and Santa Clara crimes. Roberts was booked into Napa County jail.
Anyone with information about these incidents is asked to call the Palo Alto Police Department's 24-hour dispatch center at 650-329-2413. Anonymous tips can be emailed to [email protected] or sent by text message or voicemail to 650-383-8984.