Experts urge caution after vigilante group ‘lured’ man to Target

Winston-Salem police say a group “lured” a suspected predator into a target and acted on their own. The police are urging people not to.

WINSTON-SALEM, NC – Winston-Salem police say three men with Dads Against Predators “lured” a 25-year-old man to the target on Hanes Mall Boulevard last Tuesday.

Dads Against Predators is a group whose mission is to confront predators who try to meet children and post it on social media to shed light on the problem.

The group spoke to the man through the social media app Meetup and police say the group confronted him at Target, wanting to know why he was there, and that’s when a a fight broke out and the man who was “drawn” pulled out a handgun and punched a member of the group in the leg.

RELATED: Dads Against Predators ‘Lured’ Man to Winston-Salem Target, Police Say

Experts urge caution when it comes to taking matters into your own hands, as there is a lot at stake and confronting someone who may have committed a crime can turn violent quickly, ruin an ongoing investigation and hurt innocent bystanders.

Greensboro attorney Jason Keith and retired Greensboro police officer Marc Ridgill are not directly involved in the case, but said the risks outweigh the benefits of being a hero.

Ridgill said only the police can take immediate action.

“Someone who’s not a law enforcement officer, with the power to arrest someone, doesn’t have the power to get them off the street, you have to go through the police department to do it,” Ridgill said.

Ridgill said police also know how to properly handle evidence to bring it to court.

“People taking matters into their own hands can be a problem because even if they’re well-meaning, they’re not trained in Fourth Amendment and Fifth Amendment constitutional law, they’re not trained in criminal procedure, they are not trained in how to deal with the evidence and any error in any of them can either cause a reasonable doubt for a jury or cause a procedural problem that a judge will be obliged, by law, to reject the case,” Ridgill said. “Giving information is one thing, taking charge is another.”

He said you can probably cause more trouble than actually helping and ruining an investigation, by keeping the person who may have committed a crime off the street.

“You can only be tried once because of double jeopardy, so if you’re lucky they’ll declare a mistrial and you can try them again, but if you’re unlucky, and that mistake really ruins the case and they If you’re found not guilty or the case is dismissed because of it, you may be causing more trouble than you’re helping,” Ridgill said.

Attorney Jason Keith said it could also get you in legal trouble.

“The concern in this case is when you bring in a high-conflict situation, like this, where that individual is invited in, they’re seen as a predator, and they’re up against someone who’s not trained in the forces of the order, there’s a high probability that something could go negative like it happened in Winston-Salem at Target,” Keith said.

According to Winston-Salem police, the group assaulted the man they were confronting.

Keith said that while their intent was likely to simply expose a predator, charges of assault by physical means could arise.

He said he was also worried about leaving the scene before the police arrived.

“If a crime has been committed, as in this case there was a shooting inside the target location, officers have the authority to go back and charge the person for not committing. to be complied with or to have obstructed an investigation, such as obstructing, resist delaying a police investigation they are conducting,” Keith said.

Keith said Target had enough probable cause to bring trespassing charges against the suspect because the situation put shoppers at risk and the store didn’t have time to prepare for the incident.

“There is ultimately concern at all times from any commercial establishment that people are being summoned here for purposes other than shopping,” Keith said.

Keith and Ridgill’s best advice is to let the police handle it.

“Contact someone locally, let them get involved, let them deal with it and that’s a real hero being, in the sense of this kind of thing about predators,” Keith said. “If you have any information coming through call the police and let them be and maybe it could come to court and maybe he could try to help some people instead of putting them in danger. .”

“The best thing you can do is continue to plan for information and support law enforcement as much as you can,” Ridgill said. “We’d like to end online sexual predators, but we can’t deal with it if people take matters into their own hands and think they can just hand something over.”

It’s unclear whether Target has any interest in pursuing the charges.

Winston-Salem police said they are not currently looking for the three men involved, no charges have been brought against anyone in the case, and police have not said whether there are any. would have.

Police said the Winston-Salem Gun Crime Reduction Unit is still investigating.

About Jessica J. Bass

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