by Allen Powell II
New Orleans bureau
January 07, 2013
GRETNA — Gretna police have booked a New Orleans man with stalking after police say he took lurid pictures of children from Gretna’s popular BMX bike track and may have been trying to lure them back to his home.
Don “Uncle Don” Fernandez, 65, of 5383 Paris Ave., was arrested Wednesday, according to Capt. Russell Lloyd of the Gretna Police Department. In a news release on Friday, Lloyd said that police targeted Fernandez after receiving complaints that he was hanging around the BMX track, questioning children and caressing their heads.
Parents and volunteers expressed concern because Fernandez would ask the children where they lived, how often they came to the park and then try to persuade them to come back to his home.
Lloyd said police were able to obtain an arrest warrant for Fernandez, and when they searched his home, they found pictures of children from the track with their shirts off. Police also discovered a DVD player with videos of the children in Fernandez’s bathroom, Lloyd said. Authorities are still reviewing those photographs and video to determine if any additional charges can be filed against Fernandez.
Lloyd said Fernandez has a prior arrest from 1997 in Mississippi for four counts of unlawful touching of a child. However, that case did not result in any convictions.
Lloyd noted that right now there are no reports of Fernandez inappropriately touching any of the children at the track.
Lloyd said that because the pictures and videos were found in New Orleans, that evidence was forwarded to the New Orleans District Attorney’s Office. However, the stalking accusation will be handled in Jefferson Parish. Fernandez is currently at the Orleans Parish Central Lockup.
Gretna’s BMX track is a huge attraction in the city, drawing visitors from all over the state and region. The city built the track, but it is managed by a nonprofit composed mainly of parents of track users. Councilman Vincent Cox III, who pushed for the track, has called it one of the city’s most important tourism draws.
He said he’s been told that Fernandez was posing as a photographer at the track, and one resident approached him about Fernandez prior to the holidays. Fernandez had already been barred from the track by volunteers before police arrested him, and it doesn’t appear he had any children or relatives at the facility.
Lloyd said police believe Fernandez may have been hanging around the track for an extended period of time.