Public gets a rude eyeful

Kevin Behr

The last thing most people expect to see when sipping a cup of coffee is a strange man pleasuring himself at the next table.

Some patrons of Dunn Bros Coffee in the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood witnessed such an event firsthand at about 10 p.m. Oct. 12.

So far this year in Minneapolis, 71 cases of indecent exposure have been reported, down from 89 last year, said Bernard Martinson of the Minneapolis police sex crimes unit.

Eight of the 71 cases, or approximately 11 percent, occurred in Precinct 2, where the University is located, he said.

“(Indecent exposures) happen everywhere,” Martinson said. “There’s no real area thought of as ‘the place to be.’ “

University police Lt. Chuck Miner said cases of indecent exposure like this are “fairly uncommon.” He said he couldn’t think of any recent cases on campus.

“We’ve had them before,” Miner said. “But they’re very sporadic.”

Martinson, who has been on the sex crimes unit for 18 years, said many instances of indecent exposure go unreported because witnesses see it as an annoyance crime and don’t necessarily want to involve the police.

Sometimes witnesses just accept that indecent exposures take place and don’t bother reporting the crime, he said.

But victims should report it right away because exposers could be gravitating to other, more violent crimes such as burglary or rape, Martinson said.

“You don’t know what’s in a person’s mind,” he said. “If they’re just an exhibitionist or if they’re thinking about doing a sex act with a nonconsensual partner.”

Dunn Bros incident

In the Oct. 12 incident, a man exposed himself and masturbated under a table until he was pointed out by someone in the coffee shop, according to the police report.

Officer Matt Alberts of the Minneapolis Park Police said he received the call about the incident while advising a driver about a flat tire. He went inside Dunn Bros and arrested David Lee Gatson, 38, of Plymouth, on charges of indecent exposure.

Alberts, who typically patrols Minneapolis Parks in Precinct 3, said he has dealt with indecent exposure before, but never in a coffee shop.

“We get them out on the jogging trails once in a while,” he said. “Typically, by the time we get there, they’re gone. It’s rare that they stick around like this guy did.”

Most exposers seek secluded locations where many potential victims may pass by so they can expose and make a quick escape, Martinson said.

Gatson had been frequenting public places where women might gather and spend extended periods of time, Martinson said.

Since 2002, Gatson has been arrested for gross misdemeanor indecent exposure eight times in places including Wilson Library, a YWCA and four different coffee shops.

Before the Oct. 12 incident, Gatson was serving time in a Hennepin County workhouse for previous crimes, Martinson said.

Prison is not in Gatson’s future unless he commits felony-level indecent exposure. A person must expose him or herself to a person under 16 years old or physically force someone to observe the exposure before the crime is considered a felony, according to Minnesota law.

The recent incident is a direct violation of Gatson’s probation. If convicted, he must serve another year in the workhouse, Martinson said.