The man charged with fondling women’s legs in department stores after convincing them to try on shoes said it was all a big misunderstanding.

OREGON CITY — The man charged with fondling women’s legs in department stores after convincing them to try on shoes said it was all a big misunderstanding.

Speaking from the Clackamas County Jail on Friday, Steven George Bronson said authorities filed two third-degree sexual abuse charges against him because the women didn’t realize he accidentally bumped his face into their legs while bending low.

“I think they were upset when they felt sweat on the side of my face because it was so hot,” said Bronson, 46. “It was an accident.”

Police consider Bronson a suspect in a half-dozen foot-fetish incidents since mid-July, in shopping centers from Clackamas to Medford. Additional charges may be filed as investigators in Clackamas and Jackson counties continue to examine surveillance videos and interview potential victims, police said.

Bronson is to appear in Clackamas County Circuit Court on Sept. 3. Meanwhile, he is being held on $50,000 bail.

Bronson said he merely struck up friendly conversations with women in department stores because he wanted an informed opinion on shoes he intended to buy for his wife. He said some of the women willingly slipped on the shoes and modeled them so he could see them.

“They were helping me,” he said.

Nonetheless, three women complained to security teams at the Target store on Southeast Sunnyside Road in Clackamas in mid-July.

Last week, a 15-year-old girl at a Medford store screamed when a man convinced her to try on shoes, then started touching her legs.

This past weekend, a man using the same con was reported at a Ross Dress For Less store on Southeast 82nd Avenue, west of Happy Valley and again at Target on Southeast Sunnyside Road in Clackamas.

Bronson was arrested west of Happy Valley Wednesday, when a woman spotted a man who resembled a suspect in surveillance tapes police distributed to newspapers and television stations.

Police said Bronson has a five-page arrest record, stretching back to 1983 in California, followed by incidents in Nevada and Washington. He was charged in Spokane with indecent liberties, a form of sexual abuse committed when the alleged victim is impaired mentally or physically. The charge later was dropped.