Man seeking children photos claims false connection to newspapersWritten by Caitlin McGlade | | firstname.lastname@example.org
A man with no connection to Toledo Free Press identified himself to a Holland mother as a photographer for the newspaper and asked her if he could take pictures of her children Monday.
Kelly Devol, a mother of two, said a man knocked on her front door at about 4 p.m. and told her he was taking photographs for a Toledo Free Press article about children left home alone during the summer. The man, who Devol said identified himself as “Tim O’Neil,” told Devol that he saw her children playing through a second story window and thought their Nerf gun fight would make a good picture to accompany the story.
The man looked to be in his 20s and had tattoos on his neck, arm, calf and fingers. His arm tattoo was a red and green dragon and his hand tattoo said “Live Free.” His T-shirt had an image of a gun on it, she said.
Devol asked for the man’s name and telephone number and told him her spouse might call him back the next day.
“I’m never afraid in my neighborhood, so I wasn’t afraid at the time,” Devol said. “It was after the fact that I started thinking about it.”
The next morning she called her relative, who is a copy editor at Toledo Free Press, called Toledo City Paper and The Blade; everyone with whom she spoke said no employee with the stated name had ever worked at their newspapers.
Her spouse called the man back. This time, he said he was a Blade photographer. Her spouse then asked for a contact at the The Blade to verify the man’s story. The man declined and said that the family didn’t seem interested so he wasn’t going to bother.
“My kids are a little freaked out,” Devol said.
Tuesday she called the Holland Police Department and an officer came out within five minutes, she said. But the police department does not have a report on file and Chief Robert Reed said he didn’t know if that officer was going to file one. The officer who responded to Devol’s call is out of town for training, he said. Devol gave that officer the man’s phone number. Reed said he did not have the number on him as of press time.
Reed said the department has little information about the man because Devol didn’t call while the man was at her doorstep.
He said he would love to talk to the guy.
“If you have something suspicious happen — call us right now,” Reed said. “I can’t tell you how many times people will call and say ‘Last week, something funny happened.’ I can’t do anything about it if it happened last week because the [assailant] is gone.”
Michael S. Miller, editor in chief of Toledo Free Press, said anyone who is approached by someone claiming to work for thes newspaper should feel free to call (419) 241-1700 to verify employment.
“All Toledo Free Press employees carry company IDs but it is easy to forge such identification,” he said. “No Toledo Free Press employee will ever randomly knock on your door asking to take pictures of your children or family members. All feature story assignments are arranged in advance with full permission and cooperation of the sources.”
An early report had placed the incident in Perrysburg and was reported on the Toledo Free Press Facebook page.