SEATTLE – If you’ve ever been to Seattle’s Green Lake Park on a sunny day, you’ve probably seen a man known for wearing little clothing and sometimes snapping photos of sunbathers.
Q13 news is not naming the man or showing his face because he has not been officially charged with a crime. But the man was arrested by Seattle police earlier this week and accused of assaulting an off-duty Seattle firefighter and his 2-year-old daughter with pepper spray when the dad took exception to him taking photos of strangers.
“You can see the orange up and down the back,” Brett Cameron said as he showed the pepper-spray-stained clothing his daughter wore during the altercation.
Cameron and Kelcee Azure, the child’s parents, are still struggling to understand how anybody could pepper-spray their 2-year-old after a minor complaint quickly escalated at Seattle’s Green Lake Park.
“Hearing her in pain was really hard and she hasn’t been herself then,” said Azure. “It’s really affected her.”
The parents asked Q13 News to not show the child’s face. Cameron says it all started Wednesday evening after he noticed the man taking pictures of strangers.
“I’ve seen him for years,” said Cameron. “He’s hard to miss, he’s usually not wearing much.”
Cameron approached the stranger a second time and insisted he stop photographing strangers or he’d take the man’s camera. That’s when Cameron says the man unleashed pepper spray on him and his daughter.
“At that point the burning is starting to sink in, snot’s coming out, spitting,” said Cameron. “She’s crying so hard she can’t catch a breath.”
“I panicked,” said Azure. “I was at a work event in Auburn. Rush-hour traffic, it was terrible. I can’t begin to describe.”
The stranger fled Green Lake Park but was later found by Seattle police. A police report shows the suspect claimed he used the pepper spray in self-defense – but Cameron and several witnesses told police the conversation was calm and cordial before the assault.
“Legally it’s OK to be out there photographing people,” said Seattle Police Detective Patrick Michaud.
Seattle police arrested the man for suspicion of two counts of assault. And while people photographing strangers isn’t typically against the law, police suggest calling authorities if you are uncomfortable.
“Let us investigate that because when we have access to a possible suspect and any extra possible victims, we can investigate those crimes you believe you’re witnessing,” added Michaud.
“We wanted to get out there so this guy doesn’t do this to somebody else’s kid,” said Cameron.
Cameron regrets having his daughter with him during the incident but he said he would speak his mind again to protect others who may not be aware they’re being photographed by a stranger.
“I never threatened him, never threatened to hit him, nothing,” he said, “And he pepper-sprayed a little girl.”
The suspect had been released from the King County Jail by Friday afternoon.