FARGO – The man with shoulder-length red hair stood by the sidewalk just north of Island Park Pool. In the muggy heat, he wore gray slacks and a silky, blue, long-sleeve shirt.
From his perch along First Avenue South, the man, who appeared to be in his 20s or 30s, could peer down on swimmers by the pool’s diving boards. He would look around, act like he was smoking and then snap a photo using a camera with a zoom lens.
Jed Felix said he witnessed all this on Monday afternoon. After watching the man surreptitiously take photos for a while, Felix confronted him and asked what he was doing. “He said he was just taking pictures and that he was an artist,” said Felix, 26, of Fargo. “He said it’s completely legal.”
It’s true that shooting photos in a public place is legal. But this man’s actions led the Fargo Park District to have police “trespass” him, meaning that if he returns to any of the city's public pool, he could be arrested.
“The Park District realized this is somebody they don’t want hanging around their parks,” said Sgt. Matt Christensen of the Fargo Police Department.
Police on Monday declined to identify the man. But on Tuesday, Lt. Mike Mitchell said the photographer is Kirk Ludwig of Fargo. Phone messages left for Ludwig were not immediately returned.
Detectives interviewed Ludwig after learning he was taking photos near the pool, Christensen said. Ultimately, he was not arrested and was allowed to go on his way. He was cited, however, for allegedly possessing a small amount of marijuana and drug paraphernalia.
Even though Ludwig wasn’t charged with a crime related to taking photos, Christensen said, residents should still report similar behavior to the police when they see it.
For instance, investigators want to know if someone is taking photos of kids at a school because that person may be a sex offender who’s not allowed to be there, said Lt. Jerry Boyer of the West Fargo Police Department.
“We want to be aware of that immediately,” Boyer said.
On Facebook, Felix posted photos of Ludwig aiming his camera at the pool. This prompted many people to share Felix’s post and write angry comments directed at the photographer.
One of the comments was from a woman who said she saw the same man taking photos of women in bikinis on Friday in Island Park.
“We watched as he set his camera on his lap and aim it at women in the park and then moments later look through the shots he just took,” she said in a post on her own Facebook site, which included a photo of the alleged photographer, a man with long red hair who looked like the man Felix encountered.
Felix said Ludwig would not tell him his name or show him the photos he’d taken.
“He was very calm during the entire thing like he knew that he was in the right,” Felix said. “He said that until it’s illegal, he’s going to keep doing it.”
Felix said he told the man it wasn’t right for him to take photos of a pool busy with kids.
“I got really upset, and I didn’t want to get arrested, so I kind of walked away,” Felix said. “And then he drove off.”