When Paul Pelton saw the scene of a fatal car crash this week, he didn’t try to comfort the victims, who were both teenagers, and he didn’t help them, authorities say. Instead, according to police, Pelton started filming the scene on his cellphone.
“We searched to try to find anything to charge him with,” Lorain Police Detective Buddy Sivert told Reuters, noting that Pelton was charged for entering a crime scene, but not for filming what was unfolding there, nor for trying to peddle the footage to news organizations. “It is not a crime to stick a camera where a kid is dying or try to sell it.”
After a Honda sedan flew over railroad tracks and crashed into a house Monday, Pelton filmed the aftermath on his cellphone’s camera, the Northeast Ohio Media Group reports.
The crash happened in Lorain, Ohio, which is about 30 miles from Cleveland.
Others who were in the area tried to help get to the teens, but Pelton didn’t offer any assistance.
“He went right in after the crash, before the rescuers or police arrived,” Sivert said.
According to a police report cited by the Northeast Ohio Media Group, Pelton can be heard in the video referring to the boys trapped in the car as “idiots.”
“He opened a back door and leaned in to film the boys and then walked around to the front door as he continued recording,” the Media Group reported. “At no time did he try to help either of the boys, the report said.”
The driver and the passenger were both 17. One died at an Ohio hospital; the condition of the other victim wasn’t immediately known, according to the Media Group.
Pelton posted the video to Facebook, police allege, and later tried to sell it to multiple TV stations.
Denise White, who lives on the street where the accident occurred, told CBS affiliate WOIO that she was trying to help the victims and saw Pelton filming.
“To take that video and put it on Facebook, it just shows you have no principles. It’s disgusting,” she told the station. The deceased teenager’s “mom probably had to see that,” White said.
In a subsequent Facebook video unearthed by WOIO, Pelton said he was sorry.
“I want to offer a public apology to the families of the kids that got injured or deceased in the car accident,” he said, according to the station. “I never intended it to be a video that came across as a gore video. I wanted to put the video out there so other kids could see it and learn from the mistake of speeding and driving recklessly.”
Pelton claimed that he didn’t try to sell the video to news stations, but instead was seeking charitable donations in exchange for the footage.
But at least one outlet — Cleveland’s Fox affiliate, WJW — reported otherwise:
Police said he posted the video on Facebook and attempted to sell it to at least two news stations, including Fox 8 News, but we declined.
It’s unclear whether Pelton has an attorney.
“The Lorain Police Department would like to remind citizens that they are allowed and encouraged to help one another in emergencies if they can do so safely, and that rendering aid or comfort to a dying young man and his severely injured friend is a commendable and kindly act,” the department said in a news release. “Persons are not, however, allowed to trespass into a person’s vehicle criminally and without permission for the seemingly singular cause of filming a young man’s dying moments, for profit.”
This post has been updated.