PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. – A man who was asked to leave Zoo Miami earlier this month after some parents claimed he was taking pictures of their children said his limited English contributed to the incident that led to his removal.
Eduard Glezin, 42, said in an email to Local 10 News that he was taking photographs of sculptures and fountains at the zoo May 11 when he was approached by a woman who made "aggressive comments" directed at him.
"I did not understand her, but because of her threatening tone, I decided to stop filming and wanted to quietly move away from the area," Glezin said, using Google Translate to convert his native Russian into English. "Immediately after this, I was surrounded by a group of women, all of them shouting at me. One of them grabbed my arm and tried to pull the camera out of my hand."
READ: Eduard Glezin's Letter to Local 10 News
Next, Glezin said, a Zoo Miami security guard approached and asked him why he was taking photographs of children. Glezin said, in his limited English, that he was taking pictures "of nice views" and showed the guard that he had deleted all the photos that upset the women.
Glezin said he and two of the women were escorted to the zoo's office, where police were called. In order to communicate with the two officers, Glezin used an electronic translator application on his phone.
"One officer said that he needed to make sure that my camera had no photos with children," Glezin said. "I (voluntarily) gave them my camera and smartphone. After they made sure that I did not have photos of children, they told me that there is no complaint or charges to file against me, because I had done nothing wrong."
Still, a Miami-Dade police incident report was filed by Officer Simon Gil. According to the report, police were called after a man, identified as Glezin, refused to leave the zoo.
Ozzy Alfonso, who was working security at the zoo, told police that a Russian man who didn't speak English had been taking pictures of children and had upset some parents. Police spoke to Lilibeth Fernandez, who said that she called security after witnessing Glezin taking pictures of children. Police told her that it wasn't against the law to take pictures in a public place, but Fernandez said that she just wanted Glezin to delete the pictures.
"Mr. Glezin advised that he did not mean any harm by taking the photographs and that he had already deleted them prior to our arrival," Gil wrote in the report.
Police verified that there were no pictures of children on Glezin's camera. However, according to the report, zoo staff told Glezin that he needed to leave the property.
Zoo Miami spokesman Ron Magill told Local10.com that Glezin was asked to leave the property that day, but he is welcome back and has not been banned from returning. Magill said Glezin was "extremely cooperative" with zoo staff and police.
In Glezin's letter to Local 10, he said that he was taking photos for all to see and was never asked to stop.
"As I was escorted through the park, I saw the women again and I began to apologize to them for the incident," Glezin said. "One of them said, 'It is not OK!' and took pictures of me with her smartphone."
That photo was widely shared on social media and provided to Local 10, which reported the incident on the day it happened. The woman who took the photo, Tatiana Maria, told Local 10 that Glezin was taking pictures at the zoo fountains where children play in the water. She said that she photographed Glezin since it wasn't against the law to do so and was told by police that he would be permanently banned from the zoo.
Rodolfo Turino, facility operations manager at Zoo Miami, said the incident is not the first involving a parent calling security about someone taking photos of children. He said that often times it is just a misunderstanding between the concerned parent and the photographer, giving an example of an older man who appears to be alone but is actually taking pictures of his grandchildren.
"I have two children and I know I've overreacted," Turino told Local10.com when asked if the incident may have been blown out of proportion by overprotective parents.
Maria, who spoke to Local 10 News reporter Janine Stanwood on the telephone Monday, acknowledges that the incident involving Glezin could have been a misunderstanding, but she still maintains that she was uncomfortable with a man, who wasn't with children of his own, taking photos.
"If you're at the zoo and you don't have a kid with you, you shouldn't be allowed to take pictures at the splash zone," Maria said.
She also said he did not seem to understand English.
"I'm really open-minded to another person's side of the story," she said.
However, she still agrees with the zoo's decisions to remove Glezin from the property.
"I was happy when I found out he was banned," she said, unaware that Glezin had only been ousted for the day.
Magill said the best way for someone to avoid a situation like the one involving Glezin is to ask permission before taking a photo.
"It's unfortunate that today we live in a world where people have to be protective," Magill said.