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Surrey Creep Catchers apologizes for sharing innocent man's photo
The head of the Surrey chapter of Creep Catchers has apologized after another innocent person was caught up in the group's public shaming activities.
Surrey resident Darrell Berekoff was wrongly identified as the target of a Creep Catchers sting after a picture from his Facebook profile was posted on the group's page last week.
Ryan Laforge, founder of the Surrey vigilante group, has since admitted he's the one who shared Berekoff's image. Laforge said he was trying to confirm whether Berekoff was a man his group caught on camera allegedly trying to meet two 14-year-old girls over the summer.
"I apologize full heartedly," Laforge said.
"To me, there were a lot of similarities in some of his pictures. Some, I doubted it. So what I did was I put his picture up in a comment on that video asking anyone if they knew if this was him or not."
That has had serious repercussions for Berekoff, who found out what happened after someone contacted his cousin to warn her that he's a pedophile, and that she should keep her kids away from him.
"I was like, oh my God, this is the worst thing that could ever happen," Berekoff said. "Your life just changes instantly."
While he was trying to get his name removed from the Facebook post, Berekoff said people started threatening not only him, but his family and even his boss, who confirmed he received a menacing phone call from someone accusing him of employing a sexual predator.
Berekoff said he eventually spoke with Laforge, who told him he was sorry and offered to remove his name from Facebook, but nothing more.
"They never posted an apology on their website, they never claimed that it wasn't me, so people were still thinking it was me [and] making those phone calls," said Berekoff, who wants to see more oversight of Creep Catchers and similar vigilante groups.
"What they're doing is not a bad thing but how they're doing it is horrible."
He's also considering legal action against the group, which was criticized for a similar incident just last month after another innocent person, an RCMP constable, had his name smeared on its social media posts.
Laforge said he's not worried about any potential lawsuit, and insists he never personally shared Berekoff's name. He did reveal the person who contacted Berekoff's cousin to warn her is a member of Creep Catchers.
Larforge also told CTV News he doesn't believe the threats toward Berekoff came from Creep Catchers supporters, and even expressed skepticism there were threats at all.
"In my heart, I don't believe it was a follower or supporter. I believe it was somebody that's against the movement [who] decided to take this opportunity into their own hands and make the threats, if the threats were even made," Laforge said.
"I would like to see proofs of that (sic)."
Surrey Creep Catchers won't try soliciting help identifying people' s Facebook profile pictures again, he added, but the group has no intention of stopping its activities.
"I do believe it was a mistake, and it's a mistake that I'm not going to make again," he said, while cautioning others against following in his team’s footsteps.
"Please, just leave the vigilantism up to us."
With a report from CTV Vancouver's Nafeesa Karim