A video of a female hiker on a Montara Mountain trail juxtaposed with a shot of a man wearing a ski mask has frightened viewers who came across it online, leading Pacifica police to investigate the video’s origin.
Although it is not illegal to create a video that is disturbing in nature as long as no crime has taken place, police on Tuesday identified and contacted the video’s creator, who was uncooperative, Pacifica police Capt. Daniel Steidle said.
The videographer, a man whose name has not been released, would not tell police why he made the video and said he caused the woman in the video no harm, nor did he make any contact with her, Steidle said.
The woman has not been identified and she has not come forward.
“An average person would apologize, but this guy was geared up for his rights and knew he hadn’t committed any crime — he was up for negative public attention and he got it,” Steidle said.
Police last week received dozens of reports, both by phone and electronically, from concerned community members who had seen the 59-second video on Liveleak.com.
The clip begins with a picture of a lone mountain bike — presumably the videographer’s — and then pans to a sunny wide-shot of Montara Mountain. The viewer can hear the sound of the wind as the video zeroes in on a woman walking alone on the trial, seemingly unaware that she is being filmed.
It then pans to the left where a full face hits the screen. The man shown, wearing a black ski mask, maintains an exaggerated expression, with his wide eyes and a gritted-toothed smile showing through the three holes of the knitted mask. An evil snicker can be heard at the very end.
The video, titled “I Made a ‘Friend’ on the Mountain...Wait for it,” had been shared by 169 people on Facebook as of noon Wednesday. The only caption that appears, aside from the title, is “Just the way I like to spend time once I’m at the “Peak”... ;)
Steidle said that from the beginning, police were pretty certain it was some sort of a prank, as they had no reports of missing persons, sexual assaults or any other crimes in that area.
“We thought it was a warped First Amendment-type thing, but we had to double check what his intentions were to be able to come back to the public and let them know that they are safe,” Steidle said.
As for whether the community should be alarmed, Steidle said he doesn’t believe so.
“If we set aside this person’s successful attempt to gain negative attention, the only silver lining is to remember to always exercise good personal safety, especially in secluded areas like this one,” he said. “But we believe in this case, it was just sick humor.”
Police will continue to watch out for any suspicious activity by the videographer.
“We know who he is and although he did not commit any crime, he put himself on the radar,” Steidle said.
The public’s prompt reporting of what could have been a public safety hazard has Pacifica police feeling grateful for the community partnership that it has with residents.
“We wouldn’t have known about this if it weren’t for the reports from our residents,” Steidle said.
U.S. Park Police have been notified of the incident, as the trail on Montara Mountain where the video was filmed is part of its jurisdiction.