Presumed park predator turns out to be harmless

The man whose recent activities at a Richmond district playground made local moms nervous that their kids could be in danger may not be a threat after all, police said.

Parents mobilized in recent days against the man they say shows up at Mountain Lake Park playground without kids, does pull-ups, offers children candy and takes pictures of boys and girls using his cell phone.

Fearing the man who wears sunglasses, slacks and a jacket while at the park might attack their children, parents launched a widely circulated e-mail campaign that earned much attention from community groups and an investigation by the Police Department.

Police identified the man last week and visited his home Monday, according to a police update. He was “cooperative,” “unguarded” and “surprised at being the subject of a police investigation,” according to a report from Richmond Police Station Capt. Richard Corriea.

“He allowed officers to examine his cell phone and his laptop computer,” the report said. “He stated that he hadn’t taken any photographs. He explained that he was looking at his phone’s screen while using the telephone’s stopwatch feature as part of his workout.”

The investigation, which included a background check, “did not disclose any facts that suggest that the individual had engaged in illegal activity or that he presents a risk to our community,” Corriea’s report said.

Police then told the man about signs in the park that say adults are prohibited from entering the children’s play area except when they are with children, Corriea said.

“I hope that the results of our investigation help to assuage any worries you have had about the safety of children in our community,” he said.

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