SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (KRON) — Families were out enjoying Monday’s sunny weather when police received reports that a googly-eyed “Cookie Monster” was harassing and yelling at people on the Santa Cruz Wharf.
A man dressed up as the furry blue character from the children’s show Sesame Street has sporadically appeared on the wharf by the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk in recent weeks. The costume-clad man was identified by the Santa Cruz Police Department as Adam Sandler. He has no relation to the actor.
Sandler, 59, reportedly hustles parents for money by seeking out children in tourist areas who want their photograph snapped with “Cookie Monster.”
“We are getting calls from people who say he is ‘creepy.’ Based on his history, we advise the public to not engage with this individual. Steer clear from him,” SCPD spokeswoman Joyce Blaschke told KRON4 Tuesday.
Nick Padron found “Cookie Monster” on the wharf recently and they took a selfie together. Sandler didn’t seem to be bothering anyone that day, Padron said.
“He’s looking to make a little bit of money, most likely going through some struggles in life, and found a way to make a few bucks offering pictures to people. At the time he didn’t seem too bad, (I) even got him to chuckle little bit,” Padron said.
Sandler has a checkered past, according to police and past media reports.
In the mid-2010s, Sandler dressed up as “Elmo” in San Francisco. He earned the nickname “Evil Elmo” for yelling at tourists who took his photograph without paying tips and for conflicts with small business owners. He was eventually arrested and banned from San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf and Embarcadero piers.
KRON4 interviewed Sandler in 2015 while he was dressed up as “Elmo” on Fisherman’s Wharf. He believed he was the victim of a “harassment campaign” launched against him.
In the 2015 interview, Sandler told KRON4 that he operated an adult entertainment website in the 1990s called “Rape Camp” in Cambodia. He said he felt like he was “helping” Cambodian women make money by hiring them for the website. “I thought I was giving opportunities to women who found no other way to make a living but (by) being prostitutes.”
“I don’t have any psychological problems what-so-ever,” Sandler added.
He’s also dubbed as a “serial troublemaker” in Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Times reported. A Los Angeles business owner told the Times that Sandler screamed at him and made threats. “I don’t think he belongs out on the street … no one wants to hear the Cookie Monster say he’s going to kill their family,” the business owner told the Times.
Rumors spread around Santa Cruz that “Cookie Monster” may be a registered sex offender. His name, however, does not appear on the California Megan’s Law website.
Sandler is transient and travels in his van between California cities, police said. Witnesses first began reporting “Cookie Monster” sightings around the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk and wharf in late January.
Being creepy in public is not a crime, and so far, Sandler has not committed a crime in the City of Santa Cruz, Blaschke said Tuesday. When asked if it’s safe for children to take photos with “Cookie Monster,” Blaschke said, “I would not take a photo with him.”
A spokesperson for the Santa Cruz Wharf issued a public service announcement on Wednesday.
“In recent weeks you may have seen a man dressed up like the Cookie Monster in the Santa Cruz area including the Beach and Wharf areas. It is important to note he is not employed by, contracted by, or permitted by the City of Santa Cruz or any local business,” the PSA stated.
The PSA continued, “He is exercising his First Amendment rights, however, if you have concerns about inappropriate behavior or him claiming to be hired by the City or a business, you should contact Santa Cruz Police immediately.”