Police: Sex offender posed as woman, went into women's locker room

MILWAUKIE, Ore. -- A registered sex offender dressed up like a woman, went into a women's locker room at a pool and talked with several children before being chased down by a good Samaritan, according to the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office.

Det. Jim Strovnink said on Friday afternoon, Thomas Lee Benson, wearing a bra, lipstick and eyeliner, walked into the North Clackamas Aquatic Park in Milwaukie.

While posing as a woman, the 39-year-old Benson wandered around the center talking with children, went in the women's locker room and took a dip in the hot tub.

The pool was full of children at the time, including many on a summer field trip with the group Self Enhancement, Inc.

Tayo Cotton said she was supervising kids on the field trip when he noticed Benson walk into the men's locker room wearing a bikini.

"It looked just like a man wearing a bikini bottom, and he had a white T-shirt on with a bikini top. You could see the bikini top," Cotton said.

Cotton said he next saw Benson leaving the locker room dressed in men's clothes. When Cotton tried to stop Benson, the man took off running, investigators said.

Cotton gave chase as Benson ran into the parking lot and through a Sears department store. Cotton said Benson tried to open several car doors during the chase, and eventually found one with an open rear window.

Benson opened the car door, startling the woman inside.

Before Benson could get into the car, Cotton grabbed him by the shoulders and pulled him away. During the tussle, a Clackamas County deputy arrived and handcuffed Benson.

"I just ran to him, grabbed him, kind of wrapped him up and then just kind of rolled on him," Cotton said. "He didn't say one word to me, make any eye contact from the moment I saw him until he was arrested."

Benson was taken to jail and faces charges of unlawful contact with a child, unlawfully being in a location where children congregate, robbery and attempted unauthorized use of a motor vehicle.

Benson has a history of similar behavior. In 2007, he dressed up as a woman and went into the women's locker room at Mt. Scott Community Center, according to Portland police.

According to the state sex offender registry, Benson was convicted in 1994 of sex abuse and was known to target girls between 5 and 9 years old. The state considers him to be a predatory sex offender.
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