Polk County man arrested after stalking, throwing dog at woman

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LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – A Polk County man is facing charges after a terrifying and bizarre incident.

It started started Thursday morning as a seemingly normal encounter at Lakeland High School.  Kristina Fuller had just dropped her daughter off for school.

“This man, who I never saw before in the car line, cuts in front of the school buses, blocking everything, just so I could get out, so I waved and thanked him,” Fuller said.dogthrowerwoman

Things quickly turned terrifying for the mom when she realized the man was following her.

“Every turn I was making he was following me,” Fuller said.

When she stopped at a red light, things got even weirder.

“He got out of his vehicle, came up to my window and threw his dog on me. I thought it was going to bite me or something so I tossed the dog back at him. He got back in his vehicle and started hitting my truck, trying to push it into the intersection,” Fuller said.

Police later identified the man as Howard Van Sweringen.

“I was trying to get away. He kept coming up beside me, trying to run me off the road. At one point I made a u-turn. He jumped over the median, blocked three lanes of traffic just to get behind me again,” Fuller said. “I was on the phone with my friend crying, I didn’t know what to do.”

Not able to shake the driver, Fuller called the school resource officer to let him know she was headed back to the school for help.

Sweringen followed the terrified mom all the way back to school.

“The officer there was ready and waiting for him, because I said I was on my way, because I thought it was a parent,” Fuller said.

Police took Sweringen into custody. He allegedly first claimed he knew the woman, but, later admitted he thought she was pretty and wanted to talk to her at any cost.

“It terrifies me, because I have two teenage girls and there’s people like this out there. And I think it has to have happened to more people,” Fuller said.

Police are looking into another possible incident involving Sweringen. They also are asking any other potential victims to come forward.

Sweringen is facing charges of aggravated battery for ramming the woman’s truck, and also trespassing on school property.

“He had no business at the school. He had no child there,” confirmed Lakeland Police Sgt. Gary Gross.

News Channel 8 learned the dog was not hurt during the incident. A family member picked up the dog when Sweringen was taken into custody.

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