Man Defends Using 7-Yr-Old to Beg For Money

January 14, 2009 8:29:20 PM PST
The Fresno man who used his adopted 7-year-old daughter to panhandle at the busiest intersection in town at the height of rush hour is now out of jail and talking to Action News.Police say the intersection of Blackstone and Shaw is dangerous at just about any hour of the day. That's why what our cameras spotted during rush hour Tuesday is so shocking, and even the man who was arrested for it is starting to realize it might have been a mistake.

The images have disgusted police, parents and even other panhandlers: a 7-year-old girl, begging at the busiest intersection in Fresno, with her adopted father asleep in front of her.

Donald Salter admits he fell asleep. He says he was in pain and panhandling there is no big deal. "I do it during the day," he said. "I pick them up after school. We come out here for an hour. On the weekend we spend two hours."

Police say it was a crime, but not because they were panhandling. In and of itself, that's not a crime. What is a crime is taking your little girl out panhandling at a busy intersection when your blood alcohol content is .29, which is what police say Salter's was Tuesday night.

The key is that the parent has to be able to exercise control and care for the children at all times," said deputy Fresno police Chief Robert Nevarez.

Action News asked Salter "If they tell you your blood alcohol content is .29, do you feel like you made a mistake taking your 7-year-old daughter out there?"

"Maybe so, but .29, to me, is normal," he said. Police released the girl to her mother and then checked on the home where the girl lives with Salter. Salter invited Action News in to see what they saw. It's a small, cluttered space, but definitely not a dangerous place.

Salter says he begs to pay for it and to save up money for the two girls. A couple blocks from where we found him, another panhandler tells us Salter is breaking a sort of beggar's code by using the kids, if he's doing it drunk.

"That's not right," says homeless panhandler Nathan Savage. "That's not right for them to come out here just to support their alcohol habit."

Salter told us he's seen the stories about him and they make him look like a monster. He says he's not taking the girls back out here to beg, at least not for now. CPS is looking into the family, but they don't think there are grounds to take the girls away.

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