Groping suspect surrenders after social-media buzz

Palo Alto police credit quick dissemination of man's photo for Tuesday arrest

The man who police said groped a 12-year-old girl at a Stanford Shopping Center market on Sunday afternoon turned himself in to the Palo Alto police two days later after a surveillance photo from the incident went viral on social media.

Rob Richard Chapman, a 47-year-old resident of San Mateo, called the police on Tuesday to inform officers that he planned to surrender. At about 7:30 p.m., Chapman arrived at the police station, where he was interviewed and arrested on four counts of felony lewd and lascivious acts against a child. Detectives are looking at whether he may have been involved in a similar incident earlier this month.

Rob Richard Chapman turned himself in to the Palo Alto Police Department Tuesday after a surveillance photo from a groping incident on Sunday quickly circulated on social media.
Sunday afternoon's incident at Sigona's Farmers Market. The girl was reportedly shopping with her mother when the man walked up to her and twice brushed his hand against her buttocks. Later, when the girl was in an aisle by herself, the man allegedly walked up to her and groped her buttocks over her clothes. The girl immediately told her mother what happened, but they couldn't find the man. They called the police more than an hour later.

It didn't take long for Palo Alto police to determine the man's identity. A high-quality surveillance photo immediately went up on local news sites and was shared by the department on Monday afternoon various social-media sites, including Facebook, Nextdoor, Nixle and the department's mobile app. Police credit the social-media response with helping them nab the suspect, whose image was shared on Facebook alone more than 10,000 times. His image reached the timelines of 870,000 users, the police department noted, in addition to being further disseminated by local television, print, radio and online media.

By Tuesday morning, detectives had determined the man's identity as a result of tips called in by people who had recognized him from the photo, police said. Detectives obtained a search warrant for Chapman's house in San Mateo, though he turned himself in before the search was executed. Police later served the warrant on Chapman's home.

Now, Palo Alto detectives are working with Burlingame police to see whether he may have been involved in a similar incident that occurred there on April 4. Palo Alto detectives believe he may have committed similar crimes in other jurisdictions.

Anyone with information about this crime or other similar incidents is asked to call the department at 650-329-2413. Anonymous tips can be emailed to or sent via text message or voice mail to 650-383-8984. Tips can also be submitted anonymously through the department's free mobile app, downloadable at or

Links to the Palo Alto Police Department's social media accounts are available at PAPDconnect.

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16 people like this
Posted by Bob Hill
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 29, 2015 at 8:29 am

This shows the importance of using high-quality cameras in banks and stores. Many times the photo is so blurry and nondescript that no one can recognize the person.

10 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 29, 2015 at 8:41 am

Who is this perp? What does he do for a living? Has he been preying on children all over the peninsula? For how long? We are glad he was finally caught.

1 person likes this
Posted by Sea Seelam Prabhakar Reddy
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 29, 2015 at 10:54 am

What in the world is going on to victimize a young lady.

In Stanford Mall?
In Palo Alto?

How low can a person get to touch a young lady?

Take him away and find out what causes to behave like it?

It is unacceptable!

I fear for us all!


2 people like this
Posted by Midtown Resident
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 29, 2015 at 3:25 pm

I think everyone is happy to see such quick action by the police. I would also like to point out that for many people it is persuasive evidence that while surveillance is sometimes intrusive, it has the desirable property of catching some very undesirable bad guys. I see a change in people's thinking from "Too much privacy" to "When can it be used to solve my problems?" It represents a sea change in how information is valued, how it is shared, and even who legitimately owns it. And no one knows how it is going to change our thinking in the future.

3 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 29, 2015 at 3:54 pm

I have no problem with the police using surveillance video to identify accused criminals. Everyone knows that stores have surveillance cameras and no one should be surprised about them sharing the video with the police.

However, if a store were to start publishing their videos (eg in TV commercials) without the permission of the people in the videos, then I would not go anywhere near that store ever again.

Citizens do trust the police more than corporations and the police are held to a higher standard in protecting this trust.

3 people like this
Posted by Gethin
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 29, 2015 at 8:35 pm

Gethin is a registered user.

Excellent news that with a mix of capabilities this horrible person has been caught. Terrible for the young lady but perhaps knowing he was caught and his crime will be known forever may help her

6 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 29, 2015 at 9:14 pm

I am glad that this man has been caught. I also hope that this young girl doesn't live with any sort of stigma over this. I hope that this vile man doesn't haunt her thoughts and dreams. Rather, I hope that she can rationalize that this is little more than a disgusting man who preys upon the innocent and isn't worth remembering except to think of him as an example of selfishness and lust in the form of a human being.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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