US Park Officials Rebut Riis Beach Gay Arrestee's Claims

A screenshot from a video of Krys Fox being arrested at Riis Park posted on YouTube. | YOUTUBE.COM

A screenshot from a video of Krys Fox being arrested at Riis Park posted on YouTube. | YOUTUBE.COM

BY DUNCAN OSBORNE | The National Park Service and the US Park Police are telling a decidedly different version of a July 4 arrest for public nudity at Jacob Riis Park in Queens than the gay man they took into custody, photographer Krys Fox.

“He was observed as being naked,” said Daphne Yun, a spokesperson for the Gateway National Recreation Area, a 27,000- acre federal park that has separate units in Queens, Brooklyn, and New Jersey. “A Park Police officer asked him to cover, he refused, he refused multiple times.”

Gateway had an increased police presence on the July 4 weekend, which included plainclothes and uniformed officers. Yun said that when a US Park Police officer first encountered Fox, the officer asked the man to put on clothes and then asked Fox to join two other men who were being issued summonses for public urination by police “so they could talk to the group as a whole.” Yun said that Fox refused to move.

Krys Fox's assertion police pounced after his towel slipped off challenged

Sergeant David Somma, spokesperson for the US Park Police, told Gay City News that Fox also refused to supply identification or give his name.

“Most people are compliant and they don’t create a situation where they call attention to themselves,” Somma said.

Fox was arrested and carried naked from the beach by four officers who were surrounded by another half dozen members of the US Park Police. In a video that does not show the initial moments of the arrest and that was widely distributed on social media, Fox can be heard yelling “Help me.” He was held for about three hours and issued a summons for disorderly conduct, failure to comply with a lawful order, and public nudity.

In Fox’s recounting, his towel momentarily slipped off his body and police pounced on him without warning. His attorney, Michael Pontone, said that was the case.

“That’s absolutely false, the allegation that he was warned to cover up or put his bathing suit back on.” Pontone told Gay City News. “The version that was told to me was that he absolutely had no warning before he was arrested.”

While some press have characterized Fox’s arrest as a raid on the gay section of the beach, Somma told Gay City News that the US Park Police have issued 17 summonses for public nudity in all of Gateway in the summer of 2015 through the date of Fox’s arrest. Two of the 17 people, which includes Fox, were arrested. Somma told Gay City News that the standard procedure for people found nude in Gateway is to ask them to put their clothes on and issue a summons.

Riis Park was once notorious for police arrests of gay men who were merely cruising. Following the arrests, police would contact the employers of the men arrested and inform them that their employee had been busted. Riis Park was a popular gay hangout in the 1950s and ‘60s and it retains that popularity today.