HOUSTON VOICE • DECEMBER 17, 1999
San Antonio park sting nets more than 500 arrests
> Continued from Page 14
Parks department officials said the undercover operation started in 1997 after complaints from the public and a report on a local
TV news program about public sex in city
parks, Smudy said.
While officials confirm that more than 500
men have been arrested during the sting,
allegations that the sting targets gay men or
entraps them are false, he said.
"I'd say it's an accurate number. There was
a tremendous community outcry to stop indecent exposure in parks," Smudy said. "My sister uses the parks quite often to walk her dog.
She has said she has seen people having sex
and people running naked for cars."
During the sting, Smudy said a pair of
park rangers will pose as park users, but
won't make contact with others in the park.
"They are forbidden from making contact.
If .someone approaches them and makes conversation, they will make conversation,"
What often follows, he said, is the person
who talked with the undercover officer than
exposes his genitals and sometimes grabs the
crotch of the park ranger.
Most oi the men are handcuffed and
arrested, rather than ticketed, because grabbing an officer is considered an assault,
Sumdy said. The rangers don't have time to
stop the incident and issue a ticket before it
escalates, he said.
"Normally they try to [write a citation],"
In San Antonio, the city's park rangers are
charged with handling minor offenses that
occur in parks. They are certified peace officers and receive special training from the San
Antonio Police Department's vice squad to
conduct undercover operations.
Park rangers patrol the city's 160 paries
and its well-known river walk. Five of the
city's 101 rangers are involved in the operation, which uses only male officers and concentrates on two-dozen city parks, said
Richard Bonn, chief of the city's park rangers.
Although Bonn said he has a $4 million
budget, he would not say how much money
has been spent on the two-year-old sting.
Bonn said no women have been arrested for
indecent exposure since the operation began.
"We've had some that were dressed like
women, but none of them I know of were
actually women," he said.
Smudy said that many parks have warning signs near areas where indecent exposure
incidents have occurred. The signs caution
users that parks are patrolled by uniformed
and undercover rangers.
But Smudy could not explain the high
number of arrests in light of the warnings
and publicity of the sting operation.
"We have made this public knowledge,"
he said. "We almost completely blew the
covert shadow of this operation."
Bonn said the covert operation was started
at the request of the San Antonio Police
Department, which had previously organ
ized vice operations in parks.
The warning signs were also erected at the
request of city police, Bonn said.
Sumdy decided to use the undercover
operation rather than close some of the most
troubled parks, which was what the police
department had advised, Bonn said.
An arrested man speaks out
But one of the men arrested in the operation
challenges the statements of city officials that
they don't target gay men.
"It was clearly a set up and dearly was
entrapment," said Doyle Bridger, who was
arrested in March at a San .Antonio park for
indecent exposure and assault.
Despite the arrest, Bridger said it was time
to speak out because something needs to be
done about the sting operation.
"I've been going to this one park everyday
for seven years and I eat my lunch there
everyday. On this particular day I had to go to
the restroom," Bridger said.
He said he has seen and taken part in sex in
city parks, but wasn't cruising for sex when he
was arrested nine months ago.
Bridger said he saw a gray-haired white
man and a Hispanic man outside the rest-
room rubbing themselves as he
approached. The gray-haired man followed
him into the restroom and looked over the
stall at Bridger three times, Bridger said.
The other man also walked into the
After the third attempt by the gray-haired
man to look over the stall at Bridger, he
showed the man his genitals.
"I said, 'Okay, you old queen, if you want
to see it here it is,'" Bridger said.
The men were park rangers and part of the
Bridger was arrested, handcuffed and
stood by the restroom for 15 minutes before
being transported to a nearby parking lot and
seated in a patrol car for two hours, he said.
Bridger said he never touched either one
of the officers, though he was later charged
County court records confirm that
Bridger was charged with indecent exposure, a Class B misdemeanor, and with
assault for hitting the Hispanic officer, a
Class C misdemeanor.
A judge sentenced Bridger to one year of probation, hundreds of dollars in
fines and 24 hours of community .service, he said.
When asked why he exposed himself to
the officers, Bridger said the men played
their roles well.
"My response is these guys are good,"
he said. "Thev were very good with the
Dan Castor, co-chairman of the .San
Antonio Equal Rights Political Caucus,
called the two-vear sting "atrocious."
"It is dangerous for anyone to be doing
anything in a park in San Antonio,
because we have a longtime issue with
over zealous entrapment by law enforcement," Castor said.
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