A 25-year-old Walmart employee in Alabama who was initially arrested in February for surreptitiously filming a 4-year-old using the store’s restroom has now been indicted on more than 50 felony child pornography charges after authorities say they identified multiple other victims.
According to a press release from the Cullman Police Department, Ethan Edward Richardson was first arrested on Feb. 22, 2023, for an incident that took place at the south Cullman Walmart on Feb. 4. He was charged with one count of production of child pornography, possession of child pornography, and aggravated criminal surveillance. Richardson was later released after posting $80,000 bond, with authorities noting that the investigation into his conduct remained ongoing.
Police on Friday, May 5 placed Richardson under arrest for a second time after he was indicted by a Cullman County grand jury on a total of 53 criminal charges, including 17 counts of possession of child pornography, 17 counts of production of child pornography and 19 counts of aggravated surveillance.
Authorities say that all of the latest charges against Richardson stem from his initial arrest and the subsequent investigation into his conduct, CPD Public Relations Officer Sgt. Adam Clark reportedly told the Cullman Tribune.
“I know there were some concerns that Richardson had got out and maybe had some more victims once he got out, but that’s not the case here,” Clark told the newspaper. “These new charges stemmed from the prior arrest and investigation. More victims were discovered which led to the 53 additional charges.”
The investigation reportedly uncovered that Richardson had allegedly filmed at least 18 additional minors in the bathroom in addition to the first victim. Some of the minors Richardson is accused of filming were reportedly as young as 2 years old and dated back to October 2022.
The indictment states that Richardson used his cellphone to secretly tape the minors in the store bathroom without their consent for “the purposes of sexual gratification,” AL.com reported.
A civil lawsuit filed by the father of the first victim against Richardson and Walmart provides some insight into how the investigation into Richardson began.
The suit states that the father was in the bathroom with his 4-year-old daughter when he saw a smartphone with three camera lenses being slowly moved underneath one of the privacy walls of a bathroom stall and angled towards the stall his daughter was using, Birmingham ABC affiliate WBMA-LD reported.
The suit reportedly accuses Walmart of willful and wanton conduct, invasion of privacy, and being negligent in hiring and retaining Richardson as an employee. Per the report, the complaint states that Walmart kept Richardson on staff despite his known “propensity to speak to the children of customers in an inappropriate manner.”
The specific nature of Richardson’s alleged inappropriate conversations with customers’ children was not included in the report.
Walmart told Fox News in a statement: “We are closely working with law enforcement in this ongoing investigation. We terminated Mr. Richardson in February after we were made aware of this incident in our restroom. Out of respect for everyone involved and because this matter is in litigation, we are not going to comment further.”
Cullman Police Chief David Nassetta told the Tribune that he was thankful the first victim’s father came forward to report Richardson.
“This is an example where you have people who were very observant, and they were well aware of their surroundings and what was going on and they were able to alert us to a dangerous situation, and that led to the uncovering of a much larger span of crime that occurred,” he reportedly said.
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