Corey Lewis first noticed the woman as he crossed the Walmart parking lot in Marietta, Ga., on Sunday afternoon. She was sitting in a Kia sedan, he said, as he led the two children he was babysitting back to his car.
By the time he had them buckled up and ready to go, he had his phone out and was live-streaming on Facebook as he narrated a story about how the strange woman had begun stalking them after he refused to let her talk to the children, Mr. Lewis, 27, said in an interview.
She followed him out of the parking lot, to the gas station across the street, and to his home, where Mr. Lewis, who is black, was questioned by a Cobb County police officer about why he had with him two young children, who are white.
“I didn’t know what was going on, what she wanted to do,” Mr. Lewis said on Tuesday, believing that the woman had called the police because he was a black man walking around with two white children. “I felt like my character was being criminalized.”
Sgt. Wayne Delk confirmed the incident, saying that an officer had responded to a call from a woman on Sunday afternoon. The police did not say whether they knew her identity.
In a series of live videos on Facebook, Mr. Lewis recorded the incident, which began in a Walmart parking lot and ended as the latest instance of a black person being reported to the police while doing a lawful activity, like golfing, napping, shopping or even canvassing.
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For Mr. Lewis, the episode was particularly troubling because it happened while he was working. Mr. Lewis owns his own business, Inspired By Lewis, in which he takes care of children five days a week as part of the youth mentoring program he created three years ago. His clientele is mainly white, he said, but up until Sunday, it had never occurred to him that that would give someone a reason to call the police on him.
He said he had spent that afternoon watching 6-year-old Nicholas and 10-year-old Addison while their parents were out. After taking them to an indoor play area, he took them to Walmart to eat at the Subway, he said.
After leaving the store, he and the children were hanging out by his car when the woman pulled up and asked if the children were all right. Confused, Mr. Lewis replied, “Why wouldn’t they be O.K.?” She shrugged before driving off, he said, only to return to ask to speak to Addison. Mr. Lewis said he told her no, and she insisted on getting his license plate number before driving away, only to stop within sight.
Mr. Lewis said he drove to a nearby gas station, where she followed him. Instead of taking the children home, he drove them to his house, where he knew people would be outside.
Mr. Lewis continued to record as a police car pulled up, and the officer asked him what was going on. “I’m being followed and harassed,” he says, to which the officer replied, “I’ve heard.”
The confrontation ended without issue, with the officer seemingly convinced that the children — who offered similar explanations for what occurred — were fine, but he asked if he could check in with their parents, Mr. Lewis said.
“It just knocked us out of our chair,” David Parker, their father, said on Tuesday. “We felt horrible for Corey.”
Mr. Parker and his wife, Dana Mango, were at dinner when they received the call, and his wife had to be convinced that it was not a prank, he said.
Mr. Lewis is a family friend and well known in the community for working with children, Mr. Parker said, describing him as an “All-American guy.”
Mr. Parker said that he wanted to give the woman the benefit of doubt, but that his children were having a good time with Mr. Lewis, and they were not in any apparent danger. Mr. Lewis was also wearing his signature shirt — a bright green T-shirt bearing his company’s logo.
“I don’t think you have to watch too many ‘Law & Order’ episodes to realize kidnappers don’t usually wear fluorescent green shirts,” he said, adding that he felt Mr. Lewis had handled the situation well.
Mr. Parker said he had a proud moment when, during an interview with a reporter, his daughter was asked if she had anything she wanted to say to the woman. “She said that, ‘I would just ask her to next time, try to see us as three people rather than three skin colors because we might’ve been Mr. Lewis’s adopted children,’” he recalled.
On Tuesday, Mr. Lewis was back working with children, saying he wasn’t going to let the episode keep him from doing his job.
“You see these things, but they’re like from a distance,” he said. “But then for it to actually happen to you, it’s unbelievable.”
Follow Melissa Gomez on Twitter: @MelissaGomez004.