Most college students use their free time studying or checking out their campus’s social scene, but 20-year-old Ethan wanted to bust online predators. Ethan, who only gave his first name to reporters out of fear of retaliation, is a Bay Area, California student who told NBC Bay Area that he used the gender-swapping SnapChat filter to create a fake Tinder profile. He told the news station that he has a female friend who was molested as a child and that was his motivation for wanting to find and help capture men who prey on underage girls online.
As “Esther,” Ethan was messaged by Robert Davies, a San Mateo police officer. “I believe he messaged me, ‘Are you down to have some fun tonight?’ and I decided to take advantage of it.” The two shared information and Ethan said he texted Davies on a different app, telling the officer that he was a 16-year-old girl. “We started texting on there, and it got a lot more explicit,” Ethan said. Screenshots of their conversation reportedly show that Davies wasn’t concerned that “Esther” was underage.
The two men shared texts for approximately 12 hours before Ethan sent the screenshots to Crime Stoppers. “I was just looking to get someone,” Ethan said. “He just happened to be a cop.” The 40-year-old officer has been placed on administrative leave and was arrested on charges of communicating with a minor with the intention of engaging in sexual activity.
“This alleged conduct, if true, is in no way a reflection of all that we stand for as a Department, and is an affront to the tenets of our department and our profession as a whole,” said San Mateo police Chief Susan Manheimer in a statement. “As San Mateo police officers, we have sworn an oath to serve and protect our communities. I can assure you that we remain steadfast to this commitment to serving our community with “Professionalism, Integrity, and Excellence.”