Thursday, January 06, 2005

Strip mall stripper


HAGERSTOWN - A man strolled naked outside at the Centre at Hagerstown on Tuesday before police took him to Washington County Hospital for psychiatric care.

"He just got undressed" and walked, Officer Chris Robinson of the Hagerstown Police Department said.

The man, who was not identified, "was lucid at points," but didn't fully understand what had happened, Robinson said.

Robinson said the man, who might be homeless, would not be charged.

At around noon, Duane Roy, a computer network administrator for The Herald-Mail, was at the shopping center on his lunch break when he saw the naked man jogging, then walking.

The temperature was about 53 degrees then, according to weather observer Greg Keefer's Web site.

As shoppers gawked and made cell phone calls, Roy stopped and took pictures from his car as the man approached Wal-Mart. Roy said he's a freelance photographer and keeps a camera in his car.

Then, he drove past the man, parked his car, got out and took more pictures as the man passed Wal-Mart.

As the man turned around and went back past Wal-Mart, store employees wrapped him in a blanket.

Roy said a store official told him not to take pictures or publish them without getting permission. Then, a man in a suit who identified himself as a store security official ordered him to surrender his camera, Roy said.

Roy said he refused, so the man demanded the film in his camera, unaware that it was a digital camera.

Again, Roy refused. He locked the camera in his car.

"He said if I didn't turn the camera over to him, he would have me arrested" and ban him from the store, Roy said.

Attorney Mary R. Craig, who represents The Herald-Mail, said Roy "certainly was well within his rights" to take pictures.

The store can set limits, such as on taking pictures inside, but the expectation of privacy probably is less outside, she said.

She said Roy probably didn't violate anyone's privacy, especially the naked man's.

Alice Neff Lucan, an attorney who represents the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association, said Wal-Mart "emphatically" had no right to demand Roy's camera.

"He didn't violate any of Wal-Mart's rights and he didn't violate the streaker's rights," she said. "He just took a picture of what was in the public's view."

The Herald-Mail is a member of the press association.

Store manager Frank Archer couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday.

Co-manager Barry Brown said the security officer demanded Roy's film - not his camera - because Roy didn't have permission to take pictures on Wal-Mart's property.

Brown said he didn't see the confrontation, but heard about it.

Wal-Mart corporate spokeswoman Christi Gallagher in Bentonville, Ark., said she hadn't heard what happened.

In general, though, the company insists that all requests for pictures, inside or outside its stores, be made in advance, she said.

If a photographer doesn't get permission, a store manager would tell him or her to call the corporate office, Gallagher said.

"We don't confiscate cameras," she said.

Roy said police officers at the scene decided that store officials couldn't seize his camera, but they could ban him and have him arrested for trespassing if he returned.

He said no one at the store took his name, so he doesn't know how the ban will be enforced.

Wal-Mart and The Home Depot own their buildings, while the other stores at the center lease space from Washington Real Estate Investment Trust of Rockville, Md., according to Deborah Everhart, Hagerstown's economic development coordinator.

Wal-Mart's photo policy

Wal-Mart's policy that all photos taken on its property must be approved in advance includes breaking news coverage, company spokeswoman Christi Gallagher said.

The company requires the media - or anyone else - to get approval before taking pictures in Wal-Mart stores or on Wal-Mart property, she said.

Asked if journalists photographing unexpected news, such as a fire, need the same permission, Gallagher said they do.

After hours, a journalist should call the company's 24-hour corporate hotline before taking pictures, she said.

- Andrew Schotz


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