Cops cite Basalt man for ‘lewd act’ near schools
BASALT – A Basalt man received two citations Thursday after allegedly masturbating in his car on multiple days in the neighborhood of a preschool and the Basalt Middle School as students were departing for the day, officers said Friday.
Thomas Cox, 55, was cited for indecent exposure, a misdemeanor, and public indecency, a petty offense, according to Basalt Police Sgt. Penny Paxton. She credited a Basalt resident with stepping forward and providing the information that led to the investigation and citations.
No children were involved in the incidents and police said there is no evidence Cox ever approached children. Cox doesn’t have a criminal record and he is not a registered sex offender, Paxton said. However, she suspects his actions could have escalated.
“This is a pattern of behavior. He came here to perform this lewd act,” Paxton said.
Cox caught the attention of police after a woman reported this week that she had seen a man acting suspiciously on Monday and Tuesday while sitting in his parked car on school street.
“She described the man as having an intense look on his face,” Paxton said, and there was also movement of his shoulders. The woman observed the man in his car on both days as school got out. An officer responded both days but was unable to find the suspect’s vehicle. Paxton suspects that Cox fled when he saw officers. The area is congested with traffic after school as parents drive in to pick up children.
Police patrolled the area Wednesday but didn’t see the suspect’s vehicle. At 3:20 p.m. Thursday, they were informed by Growing Years Preschool that the suspect was back. Paxton said she entered School Street from an alternative route rather than directly from Two Rivers Road. Cox allegedly started to drive away when he spotted Paxton, but he pulled over after a short distance for her and School Resource Officer Brian Lemke, who also came to the scene.
Paxton said she explained to Cox why he was pulled over. He denied any wrongdoing and initially said he was on School Street waiting to pick up his child, Paxton said. Cox acknowledged to the officers that he is a “creepy-looking guy” and that’s why someone probably reported him to officers, Paxton said. The officers were able to determine upon further questioning that Cox doesn’t have a child in the Basalt schools.
They received his consent to search his car and found evidence that he had been masturbating, Paxton said. Cox confessed to coming to the site specifically to masturbate, Lemke said. A reporting party has since told police that Cox was at the site at least once the prior week.
Paxton described Cox as “cooperative, not rude” and he insisted he had no intention of “hurting anybody.”
Cox agreed to sign a “no trespass order” which will keep him away from all schools and preschools in the Basalt jurisdiction, Lemke said. In addition, a flier describing the incident, along with a picture of Cox and description of his vehicle, was distributed to the Roaring Fork RE-1 School District and adjoining school districts, including Aspen. Pre-schools in the midvalley were also given the information.
Police also wanted to make sure parents were aware of the incident and their efforts to keep Cox away from schools and children. Paxton said the incident is an important reminder that residents should report any activity or behavior that doesn’t seem right.
“We can’t do the job alone. We need help from citizens,” Paxton said.
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