Creep Catchers crossed 'many lines' targeting man with disabilities: advocate
Published Tuesday, November 22, 2016 3:12PM PST Last Updated Tuesday, November 22, 2016 5:27PM PST
Something about this encounter was different.
Surrey Creep Catchers had already posted dozens, if not hundreds of videos, publically naming-and-shaming people they say are child predators.
They’ve even streamed some of the confrontations – which their local leader calls “blasts” – live.
But what surfaced online last Wednesday was something that looked, sounded, and even felt different.
It was late afternoon outside the Sportsplex in Langley. And Ryan Laforge and a team member from Tri-Cities Creep Catchers had their phone rolling and ready for action. Their target, they say, was a man who thought he was meeting a 14-year-old girl for sex in a public bathroom. And they say they had the Internet chat logs and text messages to back it all up.
When they approached their intended target in the parking garage, Laforge says he already knew this wasn’t business as usual. The man they were about to publically accuse of being a child predator was in a motorized scooter.
“Hi there, how’s it going?” their target asks.
“Good man, how are you?” Laforge replies. He cuts to the chase: “You here to meet an underage child?"
“No,” the man says.
Beyond the scooter, there is something about the way he talks that sounds a bit odd, something Laforge eventually clues in on.
“What is your disability, cerebral palsy?" Laforge asks.
“Yeah,” the man replies.
“My brother has cerebral palsy,” Laforge says, aware of the neurological disorder that can affect body movement, muscle control, and speech.
That doesn’t stop Laforge and his fellow Creep Catcher from laying into their target for almost 10 minutes, as the camera streams it live online.
“I don’t want to get in any trouble,” the man says.
“But you wanted to have sex with a 14-year-old in the school bathroom,” Laforge alleges.
And later this exchange:
“You’re pretending to be a 14-year-old girl?” their target asks.
“Yes I am.”
“It’s a little bit weird isn’t it?" Laforge says.
“She told me she was older and she was an escort,” the man in the scooter replies.
In an interview with CTV News on Friday, Laforge says that it’s true, initially their target thought he was meeting with a 20-year-old prostitute from Maple Ridge. But when the person posing as the escort told him, ahead of the meet, that she was only 14, Laforge says the man still wanted to go ahead, saying “It’ll be our little secret” and “Don’t tell your parents.”
“There is a definite possibility that he is not fully functioning upstairs,” Laforge told CTV News. “I am not disputing that one bit.”
But Laforge says he’s confident that the man in the scooter knows right from wrong. And on the chance that he happens to be wrong about that:
“He broke a law. Mental disability or not, it needs to be out there.”
CTV News has not seen any evidence of the alleged wrongdoing. We’ve blurred the face of the man in the scooter to protect his identity.
When we bring the video to the attention of the Langley RCMP, they tell us no complaint has been filed, and they would not be investigating further unless a complaint was made.
It turns out the man in the scooter has a significant developmental disability, in addition to cerebral palsy, and lives at home with his parents.
We learn that from Faith Bodnar, Executive Director of Inclusion BC, an advocacy organization that his family contacted for help.
“They are exceedingly distressed and upset and feel helpless in many ways,” Bodnar says.
I watch the video with her.
She’s appalled and disgusted.
There are clues in it, she says, that raise serious questions about the man in the scooter’s ability to understand and process what was happening.
“It was his responses, and the length of time, and his apparent confusion about what was going on,” Bodnar explains.
While Bodnar has never met the man, she’s been in this line of work for over 30 years.
Because the man in the scooter qualifies for provincial-funded services for individuals with developmental disabilities, she says, he must have an IQ of 70 or less.
And what’s more, Bodnar adds, people with developmental disabilities are incredibly vulnerable to persuasion. They may even admit to wrong-doing during a confrontation in order to escape.
“[Creep Catchers] crossed many, many lines,” Bodnar says. She adds: “He’s a victim here and I think they need to pay their dues for what they’ve done.”
CTV News has made contact with the man in the scooter’s family. His father declined to speak publically about the incident. Bodnar says they are currently working with a lawyer and considering all legal options. Their top priority, she says, is to get the video taken down.
It’s already had more than 30,000 views.
In the final minutes of the video, the man in the scooter gives the camera the finger, curses, then speeds away, out of the parking garage and down a sidewalk.
The camera gives chase.
“Yeah, boy! Yeah, boy!” yells the Tri-Cities Creep Catcher.
Seconds later, the scooter is hit by a car pulling out of the Sportsplex parking lot.
The recording stops, then picks up a minute or so later. The camera turns to show Laforge, who curses.
“Don’t even know what to say,” he says.
It turns out the man in the scooter wasn’t injured. But even Creep Catchers was unusually shaken up.
“I think the aggression level, we could tone it down a bit,” Laforge tells me.
He says the group also plans to do online research to familiarize itself with different mental disabilities.
“I would like to know if he has somebody that’s responsible for him,” Laforge says. “If he has a diagnosed mental disorder, and if so, why was he not being watched?”
Creep Catchers has admitted it’s messed up before, including the time they were trying to identify a target they had already confronted, and posted a photo of the wrong man on their web site.
But Laforge insists they didn’t make a mistake by targeting a disabled man.
“Hindsight being 20/20, with this one, would you do it again?” I ask him.
“Yes,” Laforge replies. “100 percent. I would have had the cops there.”