Crime

Video shows Austin firefighter talking about buying child porn

AUSTIN (KXAN) - A now-former firefighter who worked for the Austin Fire Department for more than two decades is being investigated by Austin police after a video circulated showing the firefighter talking about buying child porn.

Erik Spalteholz, 47, has not been arrested or charged with a crime at this time.

A police search warrant says the investigation started when a woman, who had been in a relationship with Spalteholz, posted a video on Facebook that was then turned over to police.

The Austin Firefighters Association says a member made sure police saw the video. In it, a woman asks Spalteholz how much money he wired for photos of "the kid." He replies, "I don't know... probably over $700."

Spalteholz continued, "Not like to do anything abusive. Not like do anything bad like that. Just take the pictures. Naked pictures. No sexual acts or anything like that."

When she asks if he's attracted to 3 or 4-year-old girls, the firefighter says, "No it was just kind of the excitement of actually it happening with one was more important than anything else. It wasn't like, cause I'm really not into 3 or 4 year olds, but the attraction that it was actually happening, yeah that was what it was doing for me."

Austin police interviewed the woman heard in the video. She told them of another instance 18 years ago, when she said Spalteholz played a sexual video of a young girl, believed to be 10 years old, with an adult male. 

According to the search warrant, the woman had concerns Spalteholz was attracted to her own teenage daughter.

The search warrant states, "Witness describes how when Victim was around 15 or 16 years of age, Erik began paying special attention to her. Witness advised that behaviors that Erik was exhibiting made her suspicious enough to begin looking into what Erik had been doing, including going over phone records from his phone bill." 

At one point, the search warrant states, the witness told police she found some "chips" inside of Spalteholz's house, where he had a key. In an audio recording police obtained, dated July 2017, the Witness told Spalteholz those SD cards she told him she had gotten rid of - she actually still had, according to the warrant. 

The document states, in the audio recording, the witness can be heard telling Spalteholz, "It's the only way I can get you to sit here and act... and tell me anything." 

A spokesperson for AFD says on the morning of April 25, the agency received "notice of an allegation to our professional standards office." However, before the internal investigation got started, Spalteholz retired. 

The department says it's not investigating since Spalteholz is no longer an employee. 

Austin Firefighters Association President Bob Nicks said, "They need to investigate the extent they can be assured that they've learned everything they can about this event and it didn't go any further than this one former firefighter." 

Nicks, talking about the video, said, "Obviously it's incredibly despicable, it's sickening..." and mentioned people he knows are seeking mental health services because they never thought something like this could exist within their population of firefighters. 

"We don’t want to be pushing things like this under the rug and act like they didn’t happen," Nicks said. 

Rebecca Webber with Austin's Public Safety Commission says, “I absolutely think that it would be important for the community to know that the fire department has looked into whether there was any kind of missed signals or missed signs,whether maybe this man’s colleagues might have raised concerns...and to make sure that nothing ever happened while this person was on duty."

A spokesperson for AFD says they can't get into any specifics of allegations of employees. 

"When someone retires from a public safety department under a cloud of scrutiny, that doesn’t mean that the issue has been put to rest," Webber said. 

The Austin Fire Department is already taking steps to examine its culture. In December, female firefighters claimed the department didn't investigate complaints against a former lieutenant. Now-retired AFD Lieutenant James Baker is accused of secretly recording women in a fire station locker room. KXAN found several complaints against him from female firefighters dating back years, including inappropriately touching patients in 2013. Baker was charged with invasive visual recording back in November.

Because of that, the Austin Firefighters Association formed a human relations committee. That team went through extensive training in Florida aimed at creating a safe and respectful workplace. There was training Friday in Austin, too. The plan is to extend the training to employees. 

APD's investigation into Spalteholz remains ongoing. 

AFD takes steps to examine its culture


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