EARLY — A Brownwood man with 33 previous charges — some of them related to sex offenses — remained jailed Monday after being accused of taking close-up videos of young girls’ midriffs and buttocks as they walked at Heartland Mall, police said.
Joel Ramirez, 50, was booked into the Brown County Jail on Dec. 23 on charges of improperly photographing or recording to arouse gratification and tampering with evidence, jail records state. His bonds total $60,000.
The midriffs and buttocks of several pre-teen girls were shown in five videos recovered from a memory card in Ramirez’ digital camera, Early Police Chief David Mercer said.
Store clerks at the mall and the mother of a girl called 9-1-1 the afternoon of Dec. 23 to report a man was taking video of young girls at the mall, Mercer said.
A clerks confronted the man, who ran out of the mall and across the Cisco Highway toward Scott’s Western Wear — where Early officers Johnny Brown and Keith Varner were conducting an unrelated theft investigation.
When the call was dispatched, the suspect had just run past Scott’s Western Wear. Brown stopped the man, and as Varner met with witnesses, Brown found young girl’s earrings, a camera phone and a camera in the man’s pockets, Mercer said.
The man told police he was only taking pictures of the mall, but a witness said the man had held the camera behind him and taken pictures of girls as they walked by or were shopping. Brown checked the camera, which also can record video, and saw that the camera’s memory card was gone.
The man told Brown he had just bought the camera and didn’t have the memory card, Mercer said. Officers detained the man and searched the route he had run from the mall, and found the card in a drainage ditch between the mall and the highway.
Several items had been deleted from the card, and Early police contacted sheriff’s investigator Jason Benefield for assistance. Benefield was able to retrieve the deleted data, which consisted of the mall videos, Mercer said.
Police executed a search warrant of Ramirez’ phone camera Monday afternoon and found pornographic images, and police are trying to determine if the images are of minors or young adults, Mercer said.
“I would like to commend the store clerk and an observant mother who witnessed the event and called 9-1-1,” Mercer said. “I would also like to remind everyone to be aware of where your children are and who’s around them. The Early and Brownwood area is not immune from sexual predators.”