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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
May 13, 2005

Men say park rangers stopped them for ‘driving while gay’

Dayton--Undercover police park sex sting operations are increasing in the area around Dayton as the weather warms.

The area is becoming a hotbed of the questionable law enforcement tactic in which plainclothes officers approach gay men asking for sex, then arrest them if they respond positively.

Gay men in Dayton are also reporting incidents where they are pulled over if police see rainbow stickers on their cars--which the men call “driving while gay.”

A complaint filed with Metro Park police in April by Dale Rogers says that he and his partner, John Adams, were pulled over by park ranger Eric Wetterich, detained for “45 minutes to an hour,” and harassed because of the gay pride and anti-Bush stickers on their car.

The couple was traveling on a Dayton city street, not in a Metro Park. They were in a car owned by Adams, who no longer drives. Rogers was taking him to work.

Five Rivers Metro Parks chief Larry Jones confirmed that Wetterich pulled the men over initially because Rogers’ license came up as suspended when he ran the car’s plate, adding that once it was verified that Rogers was not driving, no law was broken.

Adams said that during the stop, a Dayton city officer who had responded as a backup told him, “The bumper stickers are going to have to come off.”

Neither man was charged with anything, but Adams was given a written warning for driving recklessly, a accusation he denies.

Jones said the incident is under investigation.

“[Wetterich] was fairly new,” said Jones. “He has only been an officer for eight months.”

Jones said he believed the couple was traveling at “a high rate of speed” and that Wetterich “had to swerve to avoid being hit by their car.”

Asked why Wetterich didn’t issue a citation, Jones said, “I don’t know.”

Jones also said Wetterich called for backup because the couple was “boisterous and accusatory.”

“They had no way of knowing there were gay men in the car,” said Jones.

In a separate incident, Dayton police arrested a man and charged him with public indecency, a fourth degree misdemeanor, for conversing with an undercover officer.

The arresting officer, Detective Raymond St. Clair, wrote in his report that the man “exposed his penis to public view when he was showing me his penis.”

According to the rest of the report, the men were alone when it allegedly happened. In order to be public indecency, someone witnessing the incident has to be affronted by it.

In this case, according to police records, only the man, St. Clair, and two other officers, Vice Sgt. Brian Johns and Det. Harshman, were in the vicinity.

St. Clair also wrote that Johns and Harshman only heard the man utter “I knew it. I didn’t have my dick out,” but did not see anything.

According to St. Clair’s report, prior to the arrest, he told the man he was not a cop, before asking the man to take him to a place “across third street” to “suck his dick.”

“You playing with your dick?” the man reportedly asked St. Clair.

“I could be,” St. Clair replied.

St Clair wrote, “I then replied ‘Okay, I’ll follow’,” to another location. When they got there, St. Clair arrested the man.

Fairborn attorney David Morse represents the defendant, who pleaded not guilty before Dayton Municipal Judge Bill C. Littleton the next day.

The man is out on bond. A pretrial hearing was scheduled for May 9.

Morse has asked for a jury trial, which has not been scheduled.

Morse did not comment on the case other than to call the prosecution’s case “extremely exaggerated.”

A third incident with Johns as the arresting officer occurred May 6 at Deeds Point Park.

Johns arrested a 40-year-old Xenia man who was initially charged with public indecency and abusing a harmful intoxicant.

According to spokesperson Detective Julie Swisher, the intoxicant was “poppers,” which according to reports, were found after the arrest, not used.

“Poppers” are a legal substance sold as video head cleaner, that when inhaled increases the sensation of orgasm.

Swisher said the prosecutor is not pursuing the intoxicant charge.

Reportedly, Johns met the man in the restroom where they struck up a conversation.

At some point, the two walked to a picnic shelter, where they were joined by a third man.

Allegedly, the arrest was made when the man masturbated.

Johns’ commander, Lt. Pat Welch refused to answer whether or not the third man was an officer or civilian, whether there was a second arrest, or who was affronted.

The suspect did not return calls for comment.

The gay and lesbian Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund publishes a “Little Black Book” available for download at their web site, www.lambdalegal.org, with cautions for gay men cruising in public places.

 

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