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Homeless man accused of molesting 6-year-old at an emergency hurricane shelter

Posted at 7:34 PM, Oct 11, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-11 22:34:19-04

A 60-year-old homeless man was arrested on Thursday in Okaloosa County, Florida after he was accused of molesting a 6-year-old girl at an emergency shelter as residents rode out Hurricane Michael on Wednesday. 

The makeshift shelter was located at a middle school.

According to the Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office, John Stapleton was arrested on charges of lewd and lascivious molestation of a victim under the age of 12.

A witness reported to deputies that Stapleton was seen on video allegedly touching the 6-year-old girl in a lewd manner underneath her clothing. The sheriff's office said that investigators reviewed the video and that Stapleton admitted to touching the girl, but not in a lewd manner.

According to the Northwest Florida Daily News, deputies said they routinely run background checks on evacuees entering emergency shelters. The Daily News said there was no record that Stapleton had ever been charged with child molestation in the past. 

Background checks at emergency shelters have been a point of contention, according to the Daily News. At another shelter in Okaloosa County, staffers from the Red Cross reportedly walked out over a disagreement about background checks. The Daily News reported that the Red Cross does not condone the practice of performing background checks to prevent sexual offenders from staying at emergency shelters.