A MINNEAPOLIS photographer was arrested on Tuesday for allegedly raping and blackmailing three women repeatedly.
Den Zell James Gilliard, 28, was charged with two counts of criminal sexual conduct, as well as false imprisonment and domestic assault.
Court records show that in the past six months he has been arrested for sexually assaulting two other women – facing similar charges of criminal sexual conduct for those cases.
Jail records show Gilliard is being held at Minneapolis City Hall in lieu of $500,000 bond.
Cops allege Gilliard met one of his victims when she contacted him in 2016 to take her picture, in a criminal complaint obtained by WCCO.
The two began a romantic relationship but the woman said Gilliard soon became violent and pressured her into sex early, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported.
Gilliard would allegedly throw things at the woman, punching her in her face, and reportedly squeezed her neck with his hands or a leather belt, the outlet reported.
The woman reported that Gilliard forcibly raped her 10 to 20 times over the course of their relationship and used a film camera to take nude pictures of her without her consent.
Gilliard then used the nude photos to “intimidate and blackmail” the woman, also removing doorknobs within the house so she could not leave his home.
Cops executed a search warrant on Gilliard’s home on February 14 and claim several of the doorknobs had been removed, KCCO reported.
One of the other women who has come forward against Gilliard claims he sexually assaulted her 40 to 50 times and had to be rescued from captivity by two of her friends who broke into his home to free her.
Gilliard’s photos have been featured in publications including City Pages and Vogue Italy.
According to his LinkedIn, Gilliard has an associates degree in Criminal Justice/Law Enforcement Administration from Minneapolis Community and Technical College.
A friend of the photographer wrote on his Facebook page after his arrest: “Den-Zell Gilliard is a man I admired for his fashion sense, and his use of film cameras. He held many predominantly black events, something he’s almost militant about.
“It is with great disappointment, to learn that he has been arrested and charged with Kidnapping, Sexual Assault, and Forced Captivity of at least 3 women. I’ve said all I can say on the subject. Watch yourself out there.”
If you or someone you know is affected by any of the issues raised in this story, call RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) at 800-656-HOPE (4673).