HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Why were pictures of three teenage girls posing in their underwear allegedly taken at the Bayside Park Volunteer Fire Department? Two of the girls were reportedly 16, the other was 14. And that, investigators say, is considered child exploitation.
Consequently, Assistant Fire Chief Clarence "Zeke" Hall and volunteer fireman Vincent Reiber have been arrested and accused of taking lewd pictures of three underage girls.
Vincent Reiber left his initial court appearance with his head down. Attorney Donald Rafferty is representing the other suspect in the case, Clarence Hall.
"We categorically deny that my client has done anything wrong and we look forward to defending it," Rafferty said.
Authorities say the incident happened at the Bayside Park Volunteer Fire Department. They say following a boot shake to raise money for the department, firefighters gathered at the station, where the pictures were allegedly taken.
"There is no explanation of why the pictures were taken themselves," said Hancock County Sheriff's Investigator Brandon Normand. "The incident revolved around a dare and the dare got out of control."
Officials say the young girls lived near the fire station and were visiting the department Memorial Day weekend when the incident happened.
"There were several pictures taken via camera phone, via regular digital cameras. The victim's mother found the pictures on her phone of the firemen and brought it to the attention of the fire department, and through further investigation we found that there were pictures of the juvenile females themselves," Normand said.
Authorities say neither man has been accused of sexually assaulting the girls, only photographing them.
James Butcher, Chief of the Bayside Park Volunteer Fire Department said, "This is not the kind of conduct that we allow to go on here."
He went on to say, he wasn't aware of the incident until he was contacted by Sheriff's investigators.
"Disciplinary actions have been taken which include suspension, demotion and termination of these members. I hope the community does not look down upon the whole fire department because of bad actions by just a few members," Chief Butcher said.
If convicted, each man could face up to a $500,000 fine and 40 years in prison. Vincent Reiber and Clarence Hall were both booked under a $50,000 bond.