Mom confronts man taking photos of toddler daughter at park

BEAVERTON, Ore. -- A mom asked KATU News to come along as she confronted a strange man taking questionable photos of her toddler in Beaverton City Park on Wednesday.

Despite what he photographed, police didn't arrest him. The incident raises questions about parents' rights in public places.

It happened at the fountain in the middle of the park, a public place where most people wouldn't expect privacy, during the middle of the afternoon. Even though the photographer in question didn't break any laws, Beaverton police called what happened "concerning."

"I think this is absurd and it's disgusting," said Elizabeth McMenamin.

Another mother warned McMenamin that a strange man took photos of McMenamin and her two year-old daughter.

"I just saw this guy taking pictures of me, and then Genevieve, and then these two other boys that were sitting by us. I saw the guy come back over and he starting taking pictures, and then he started taking pictures of her little one and she didn't have clothes on," said Katie Pointer.

McMenamin relied on her maternal instincts to know something wasn't right. A KATU photographer was in the park shooting video of people cooling off in the fountain. McMenamin asked him to tag along while she confronted the man.

"I want to make sure you didn't take any pictures of us," McMenamin told the man.

He replied, "Sorry, sorry, sorry," in broken English.

McMenamin took his phone out of his hand and started looking at his photos.

"This is just me in my swimsuit," she said.

McMenamin also found photos of her daughter, and other children at the park, on the man's phone. She considers the photos inappropriate.

McMenamin called police for help.

She told the 911 dispatcher, "As I approached the man he's getting shaky and nervous."

Police showed up a few minutes later. They questioned the man, but didn't arrest him. They said he didn't do anything wrong.

Photographs taken in public spaces, like a park on a hot day, are protected as free speech by the First Amendment. It's the same law that allows KATU News to shoot video of our reporters in public places, and the same law that allows us to shoot video of other people in public places without asking first.

It comes down to intent. KATU's intent is to inform our viewers.

The man's intent for taking the secret photos isn't clear. Police said he didn't do anything illegal with them after he legally took them.

"If you're frantically trying to delete photos off your camera than something's wrong here. You shouldn't be in a park with children around," McMenamin said.

She wants other parents to learn from this, a reminder to keep their eyes on their kids, especially as warm weather brings out the crowds.

If a stranger's taking photos and you don't want them to, police caution that confronting them isn't the safe thing to do. They suggest you call the non-emergency number.