VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – Several people were arrested during an undercover four-day operation targeting lewd activity in Volusia County parks, deputies said during a press conference Saturday morning.

During the Sheriff's Office's "Operation Park Hopper," deputies trolled parks looking for men who were searching for "hookups" and exposed themselves.

Undercover Volusia County deputies began visiting area parks and said it didn't take long for men to approach them and start conversations before the inappropriate behavior took place. 

Deputies said 18 men, raging from 28 years of age to 78 years of age, were arrested during the sting and nearly all of them were charged with indecent exposure and other charges. Four of the men faced additional charges of battery for groping or rubbing a deputy, the Sheriff's Office said.

One of the men aggressively grabbed an undercover deputy's crotch before grabbing his arm and trying to pull the deputy toward him, deputies said. When the deputy tried to arrest him, the man did not cooperate, causing him to face an additional charge of resisting an officer without violence.

Another man was arrested when someone pointed him out to a deputy and said he was masturbating, according to the Sheriff's Office.

The Sheriff's Office said the men were arrested at the following county parks:

  • Bicentennial Park, Ormond Beach
  • Riverbend Park, Ormond Beach
  • Lake Beresford Park, DeLand
  • Doris Leeper Spruce Creek Preserve, Port Orange
  • Sleepy Hollow Park, New Smyrna Beach
  • Green Springs Park, Deltona

Volusia County deputies said the operation came after the Sheriff's Office received complaints from the community about lewd activity taking place around the county. The Sheriff's Office said it wants to "set the tone" on keeping parks safe, especially as county schools just let out for summer break and kids begin to spend more time at parks.

The following men are facing charges, deputies said:

Mario Alexander, 28, homeless, indecent exposure in public, and unnatural and lascivious act

Christopher Barron, 55, of Ormond Beach, indecent exposure in public, and unnatural and lascivious act

Brantley Blalock, 55, of Deltona, indecent exposure in public, and unnatural and lascivious act

Jerome Britt, 71, of Ormond Beach, indecent exposure in public, and unnatural and lascivious act

Bernard Coker, 64, of South Daytona, indecent exposure in public, battery and resisting an officer without violence

Ronald Ezell, 78, of DeLand, indecent exposure in public, and unnatural and lascivious act

Robert Fonda, 45, of Port Orange, indecent exposure in public, and unnatural and lascivious act

Matthew Henrikson, 56, of Ormond Beach, indecent exposure in public, and unnatural and lascivious act

Richard Jachim, 72, of Ponce Inlet, indecent exposure in public, and unnatural and lascivious act

Todd Johnson, 49, of New Smyrna Beach/Daytona Beach, indecent exposure in public, and unnatural and lascivious act. Johnson was a teacher and taught at New Smyrna Beach Middle School before being transferred to Volusia Online Learning in December 2016. He has been removed from contact with his students, authorities said.

Steven Kearns, 55, of Daytona Beach, indecent exposure in public, and unnatural and lascivious act

Erick Martinez, 43, of San Francisco, California, indecent exposure in public, unnatural and lascivious act and battery

Jeffrey Neer, 49, of New Smyrna Beach, indecent exposure in public, and unnatural and lascivious act

Thomas Pajak, 69, of Deltona, indecent exposure in public, unnatural and lascivious act, and battery

James Stewart, 28, of Ormond Beach, indecent exposure in public, and unnatural and lascivious act

Paul Villegas II, 61, of Deltona, indecent exposure in public, and unnatural and lascivious act

Robert Warner, 75, of Union Grove, North Carolina, indecent exposure in public, and unnatural and lascivious act

Arnold Wicker, 44, of Daytona Beach, battery

Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood said he couldn't even begin to understand why anyone would go to a public county park and commit lewd acts while children and families are enjoying the outdoors.

"I cant think of any other way to describe them as dirty, old perverted men," Chitwood said.

Chitwood said those types of activities impact the quality of life for those who live there and that it's important to ensure the parks and trails are safe for families and children.

"You see kids on bikes, you see couples, you see people exercising, you see people enjoying the beautiful parks we have here. And then to have to deal with looking at that or being propositioned when you're sitting on the bench eating lunch or on your computer...I think it's disgraceful," he said.

Chitwood said the Sheriff's Office is just scratching the surface on that type of crime.