Missoula County Detention Officer accused of filming in changing room at water park

MISSOULA COUNTY

By Emily Adamson, KECI Reporter, eadamson@keci.com
POSTED: 12:21 PM Aug 09 2012   UPDATED: 3:33 PM Aug 07 2012
MISSOULA, Mont. -

The Missoula County Sheriff’s Office has confirmed a detention officer has been suspended while the Sheriff reviews his case.

Michael Gauci allegedly held a camera over a changing room wall at Missoula’s Splash Montana Water Park over the weekend, while a woman and her two children were changing into their bathing suits.

The alleged victim and her 16-year old daughter won't soon forget what they say happened to them in the family changing room at Splash Montana. Saturday.

“It dawned on me that somebody was holding it and that it was a red video camera. And so I screamed at him hey a few times,” said the victim/mother (she asked that her name not be released.) She said she was facing the camera while her two daughters had their backs to it.

“I looked up at where my mom was looking. I saw the camera. I didn't know what to do. I covered myself up and finished getting dressed and grabbed our stuff and my little sister and went outside,” said the 16-year-old daughter.

The victim says she chased the man out of the dressing room and started calling for help.

“By the time I actually caught him. We were out in the middle in the main pool area and I kept yelling ‘security’.”

She said her husband heard her screams and ran out of the men’s changing room. He and another woman and man at the park grabbed the suspect and held him while they waited for police. The victim said he tried to get away but fell. They accused him of trying to delete his video while he waited. Now Gauci's charged with burglary and trying to tamper with evidence.

“They kept him on the ground until the police showed up and we managed to get the camera out of his hand. He was trying to erase the contents,” said the victim.

The alleged suspect Michael Gauci wasn't arrested on the scene and it wasn't until later that the family found out he's a Missoula County Detention Officer. The Missoula County Sheriff’s Office said he's since been suspended from his duties while the sheriff looks into the incident. 

The charging affidavit says Gauci admitted it's not the first time he's taped women there

But the victim says that doesn't change what he did.
“Those are the very people who are supposed to be protecting us, not violating us.”

Missoula Parks and Recreation Director Donna Gaukler said this is the first incident of its kind that's been reported at the park, but they're taking a look at their privacy policies and procedures.

“It’s not something we deal with on a daily basis. This and the safety of people in and around the water is something we're hyper focused on,” said Gaukler.

But the victim and her children are still worried, wishing they didn't have to second guess locker rooms from now on.

“It makes me question on whether or not I'm safe anywhere…you just never know.”

The Missoula Police Department is investigating the incident. Gauci has not been cited or arrested at this point. But police have referred the case to the County Attorney's Office and recommended Gauci be charged with felony burglary and felony tampering with evidence.