Austin Blake Stewart

SPRINGFIELD – A 24-year-old man was charged with physical harassment and disorderly conduct Thursday, March 25, after allegedly kissing a stranger’s 1½-year-old daughter on the lips in a local store. 

Springfield Police Department officials said Austin Blake Stewart, a Springfield resident, committed the offenses at WINCO, 1920 Olympic St.

The SPD summary stated: 

On Thursday, March 25 at 6:08 p.m., an officer was flagged down by a father who reported a stranger had just pulled his face mask off, and kissed his daughter on the lips inside WINCO.  Just prior to seeing the officer, the father was searching for the suspect. 

During the investigation, the officer learned that while inside the store, the mother had her 1½-year-old daughter in her shopping cart. While the mother glanced away for a brief moment, the suspect leaned down, removed his mask and kissed their daughter on the lips, and then departed. The mother began searching for the suspect, but he had vanished. She alerted her husband and WINCO staff. 

Officers began searching and later found Stewart under a blanket on 18th St. He was lodged at the Springfield Municipal Jail on the listed charges.

This is the second incident involving crimes against children this week (the first being a kidnapping), SPD officials said. “In both cases, the parents did an excellent job working with SPD to apprehend the suspect. In this case, staff with WINCO were also very helpful in alerting SPD to the event, and providing video footage to help identify the suspect,” a department spokesperson said.