Charges approved against deputy sheriff after Creep Hunters sting
A former deputy sheriff from the B.C. Interior has been charged after being targeted in a sting by an online vigilante group calling itself the Creep Hunters.
Three counts of communicating with a person believed to be underage for the purpose of facilitating a sexual offence and one count of invitation to sexual touching have been approved against Kevin Johnston, officials announced Tuesday.
The allegations are said to have occurred from Aug. 8 to 27, when Johnston was a deputy sheriff in Kamloops.
He has since stopped working as a public servant, the Criminal Justice Branch confirmed.
Creep Hunters operates similarly to the various local Creep Catchers chapters by filming people they allege to be sexual predators and sharing the footage on social media.
The group posted video on Facebook in late August of an alleged deputy sheriff said to have responded to a Craiglist ad that claimed to be from a 14-year-old girl. It has been viewed more than 97,000 times.
After learning about the footage, Mounties contacted the Criminal Justice Branch, which appointed a special prosecutor to the case.
The prosecutor, Michael Tammen of Vancouver, approved the charges against Johnston last Wednesday.
Officials said they will not be commenting further on the case while it before the court.
Mounties have repeatedly urged against online vigilantism, cautioning that amateur investigations can put people’s safety at risk and even slow down the wheels of justice.
Expects from the RCMP’s Integrated Child Exploitation unit also said shaming sexual predators online does not tend to actually discourage their behaviour, and that it’s important for anyone who thinks they have identified a sexual predator to contact police immediately – not wait until they can conduct a sting and share it online.
An RCMP officer from Surrey was arrested last week following a set-up by the Creep Catchers. He has since been released from custody, but authorities said charges against him are pending.