A Portland Public Schools employee with two prior arrests for OUI was arrested Oct. 13 on several charges, including sexual exploitation of a minor.
Police said Benjamin Conroy, 32, of Portland, was arrested following reports of two incidents that eventually led police to him.
According to a press release, the first involved a minor and was brought to police attention on Oct. 5 when a person reported that, while communicating with a man through an online dating app, the man shared disturbing images. Some of those images appeared to have been taken in Portland, including images that appeared to be a child engaged in a sexual act, possibly inside a school.
Then on Oct. 8, police responded to the Western Promenade for a report of a woman screaming for help. They said the 31-year-old Portland woman was walking on trails in the area when she was approached by a man who exposed himself to her. She walked away, but the man appeared again when she got to Pine Street. He approached her while she was distracted and pressed himself against her as he exposed himself. The woman screamed for help and ran away, and several people came to her assistance.
After talking with several witnesses, police located Conroy near Vaughan and Carroll streets after witnesses followed him and flagged down an officer who was already looking for him.
After Conroy was taken into custody and charged with unlawful sexual contact, for which he received a summons, police determined he is an employee of Portland Public Schools. They then began to look into whether the earlier explicit photos could have come from where Conroy worked.
The School Department later said Conroy is an educational technician in the Beach Program at Ocean Avenue Elementary School and has been employed since summer 2020. According to a letter sent to parents, he allegedly victimized a student in the Beach K-1 classroom.
After working with school employees to identify a possible victim, police arrested Conroy at his home on Stevens Avenue. He was charged with sexual exploitation of a minor, dissemination of sexually explicit material, and possession of sexually explicit material.
His prior arrests for OUI came to light after police initially said no further information would be provided given the sensitive nature of the crime.
Conroy was placed on administrative leave, which prohibits him from being on any school property and contacting students, family members, or staff. As of Monday, Oct. 18, he was being held at the York County Jail on $50,000 bail.
Interim Police Chief Heath Gorham said the arrest would not have been possible if not for the person who reported the troubling images they saw, as well as the citizens who helped track down Conroy.
Superintendent of Schools Xavier Botana said these events are contrary to the district’s goals of ensuring students have a safe and supportive school environment.
“In addition to assisting law enforcement with their investigation, we are also conducting our own internal investigation to determine what occurred and to understand any changes we should put in place,” Botana said in a statement. “We are committed to conducting a full review and doing everything in our power to ensure that nothing like this will happen again.”
This report was updated on Monday, Oct. 18, 2021.