Man discovers gruesome evidence photos on cameras purchased from City of Huron auction
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - A seemingly everyday purchase at a city auction left a Brookings man reeling and worried about the safety of others.
On his phone, Tim Caya looks for deals and places bids for items on online auction sites. In May, he bid on items from the City of Huron surplus auction. Although he didn’t win everything he bid on, he did have the highest bid on a car and several digital cameras.
When he turned on the camera, he discovered gruesome photos.
“They were all on internal memory,” said Caya. “The first photos I saw weren’t, you know, anything serious. But when I got to that photo of the guy who shot himself and the note that said ‘forgive me,’ it was horrifying.”
Photos on the cameras, still marked with City of Huron stickers, reveal what appear to be crime scenes, victim abuse photos, crash scenes, and evidence items. Graphic images of adults and children and clearly identifiable. Some appeared to be living, others appeared to be dead.
Caya tracked the dates, ranging from 2006 to 2018, from the photo properties on each picture.
“And all those photos of domestic violence victims - no one should know about that,” said Caya.
He wonders if sensitive information deleted from other computers and cameras sold secondhand is retrievable, adding that sometimes even deleted photos can be recovered.
We checked to see if Caya’s claims about recovering even deleted items could be true. Our confirmation came from Bit’s-N-Bite’s owner Lisa Giannini.
“Somebody who really knows how to get in, they can get it off there. The real surefire way is to simply destroy the hard drive,” said Giannini. “We have taken some computers from a local hospital. And what we did, they requested the hard drives backs, we set them aside took them out, and we returned them to the hospital.”
Caya is concerned for the privacy of those photographed.
“I hope they can get some answers on why these were sold to the public. I would be horrified,” said Caya.
Marsy’s Law in South Dakota includes statements on victim’s privacy, including “the right to prevent the disclosure of information or records that could be used to locate or harass the victim or the victim’s family, or which could disclose confidential or privileged information about the victim, and to be notified of any request for such information or records.”
The National Sexual Violence Resource Center in Harrisburg, Pa. advocates for victims. Communications Director Laura Palumbo is concerned that situations like this could impact victims reporting in the future.
“There’s so much fear that victims face coming forward,” said Palumbo. “And so that’s why it’s of the utmost importance that whenever victims of crime are working with law enforcement, that the evidence in their cases is handled with the utmost respect for their privacy.”
Palumbo says this situation can be even more devastating in a small town like Huron.
“The really important part of addressing crime in rural communities, for there to be that trust with how you know how victim’s information is handled.”
Not only does Caya say he wants to return the cameras for a refund, he claims the car he purchased needs major repairs and wants to return that as well.
“If you made a mistake, let’s just take everything back, and call it a draw, you know, I’m not trying to profit,” said Caya. “I just want my money back or my car fixed. You know, They made a huge mistake, and so did I.”
Caya says his request was denied.
“(They said) Just delete the photos, or they could send an officer to delete them, but there’s nothing they can do,” Caya said, referring to a conversation with Huron officials. “And I said, ‘So you don’t want to take, let me return all the items, maybe I’ll go to the media next,’ and that was the last words we had in our conversation.”
In Huron, the auctioneer, City Attorney, and Chief of Police all responded to our request for an interview by saying they have no comment. Mayor Gary Harrington stated that there could be further litigation and declined an interview.
“This will be a huge learning experience for law enforcement all across the nation, that you should never sell that type of stuff. It should be destroyed,” said Caya.
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