Teenager certified as adult in Blue Springs invasion of privacy investigation

Published: Dec. 9, 2022 at 4:00 PM CST
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BLUE SPRINGS, Mo. (KCTV) - A teenager arrested in March accused of invading strangers’ privacy by illegally and secretly recording them inside women’s restrooms at Blue Springs businesses was certified as an adult this week.

Michael Okal is charged in Jackson County with four counts of invasion of privacy and one count of sexual abuse. He was previously facing 10 counts in the juvenile justice system.

While on house arrest from the Jackson County Juvenile Detention, Okal was accused of committing another deviant sexual act against an elderly woman as she shopped at a Blue Springs business. After his 18th birthday and he was certified as an adult, Okal was transferred to the Jackson County Detention Center.

The initial investigation began in March when a woman flagged down a Blue Springs police officer. She said she saw a suspect recording her and her six-year-old daughter inside a QuikTrip women’s bathroom off Woods Chapel Road.

Police used surveillance video to identify Okal. Surveillance showed him riding a bicycle away from the QuikTrip. Investigators say he was found hiding inside a woman’s restroom at another nearby gas station. He was taken into custody.

Investigators executed a search warrant and discovered videos on Okal’s cell phone. According to court records, Okal recorded women at the QuikTrip by waiting in a middle stall and recording women on either side of him by holding his phone over the top of the stall. Police alerted the community to try to help identify the women who were unknowingly recorded.

“We have 18 victims that we know of but every time we turn over a new stone, we find more victims,” Blue Springs Police Department Sgt. Keegan Hughes said at the April news conference.

Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault Director of Advocacy Victoria Pickering saID invasion of privacy in a public place can affect survivors in many ways. “Anxiety, stress, flashbacks,” Pickering said. “With invasion of privacy, I do think that it can exacerbate what we see as a common reaction to sexual trauma what we call hypervigilance.”

Pickering said survivors can feel unsafe in situations where they would have previously felt safe. “That can have a really strong impact on someone’s day-to-day life,” Pickering said

During the investigation, court records show additional victims reported they were targeted while shopping or working at businesses in the Woods Chapel corridor. Okal is accused of exposing himself or forcing himself on women from behind and committing deviant sexual acts.

Pickering said there are resources available for survivors. “Whether an invasion of privacy or sexual assault or sexual abuse, all of our services are accessible for survivors and their loved ones completely free of charge,” Pickering said. “People can always reach out and talk to us about what they’re experiencing, what they’re feeling and get access to the supportive services that they deserve to be able to heal and recover.”

MOCSA’s 24-hour crisis hotline can be reached by calling (816) 531-0233 or (913) 642-0233.

Okal’s bond was set at $10,000. If a bond is posted, the court would require GPS monitoring through county house arrest. His bond conditions prohibit him from entering gas station bathrooms.