Man looking to 'record kid being happy' at zoo, confronted, not charged

Posted at 10:52 PM, Jun 19, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-20 05:35:50-04

The man can be seen standing behind garbage cans with his cell phone out, pointed at the little girl in the fountain area in her bathing suit.

NewsChannel 5 has obtained a report done by West Palm Beach police, which identifies the man, but we are choosing not to identify him since police say he did not commit a crime. We are also blurring his face.

So why did this man record video?

"The zookeeper asked him why he was doing it and he said he wanted to record a kid being happy," the 2.5-year-old girl's mother told NewsChannel 5 over the phone. She asked that we not identify her.

The Pompano Beach family grew suspicious of the man, and causally glanced over at one point, the father confirming he was recording. The first attempt to confront the man was unsuccessful.

"My husband went over to approach the man, and the man took off," the mother says. "I was very nervous, I was very scared."

The father went to security, and found the man in another part of the zoo.

"The man handed his phone, shaking. My husband went through the man's phone. He didn't see any other photos of children. He saw a lot of selfies of the man. But he did find three videos that were recorded of my daughter," she says.

The father wiped the videos from the phone, and police checked the man’s criminal record and found no history of lewd acts.

Michelle Suskauer, our legal analyst, says we don't have an expectation of privacy when we're in public.

"The fact is, he took video and there was nothing that was done with it. Nothing that was posted. He didn't utilize it for any means," Suskauer says.

The man left the park on his own terms.

Naki Carter, a spokeswoman for the Palm Beach Zoo, said the man is not a zoo employee, he was visiting.

Zoo policy allows for picture taking, but takes complaints seriously.

"We are a community here and so we do let everyone know if you see something concerning, if we see something concerning, we will take action and call police. We want everyone to feel comfortable," Carter says.

"We felt a little bad for calling on the guy, but you can't take any risks these days. There's no reason that the guy should have been out there shooting three videos of my daughter and hiding behind a trash can," the mother says.

The family was very complimentary of the zoo's handling of the situation.

The zoo is meeting tomorrow to discuss the incident. Part of what they'll discuss if the man should be banned.

We have called the man in the picture, but we have not heard back.

The KidSafe Foundation, a nonprofit out of Boca Raton that provides education about things just like this, says videos like these are sold on the dark net.

Some tips they provided us to share with you:

1) See something, say something.
2) Be aware of your surroundings and trust your instincts. Spend less time on your phone.
3) Remember that parents are the first line of defense for kids.