"I was just looking to get someone. He just happened to be a cop."
A 20-year-old man pretended to be a teenage girl, using Snapchat's gender-swap filter, to catch predators. He ended up snaring a local cop.
Ethan, a San Francisco college student, set up a fake profile on Tinder for "Esther", which caught the attention of San Mateo police officer Robert Davies.
"I believe he messaged me, 'Are you down to have some fun tonight?'" Ethan told NBC Bay Area, "and I decided to take advantage of it."
A California college student used a Snapchat filter to pose as an underage girl online in an effort to catch sexual predators. https://t.co/x8HXamacrA— NBC News (@NBCNews) June 12, 2019
While "Esther's" profile on Tinder said she was 19 — since the hook-up app bans underage profiles — Ethan switched the conversation to a separate messaging app where "she" revealed she was actually just 16-years-old... but Davies was not dissuaded.
"We started texting on there, and it got a lot more explicit," Ethan said.
After exchanging sexts for 12 hours, Ethan then sent the screengrabs to Crimestoppers. Davies was subsequently arrested on suspicion of contacting a minor to commit a felony.
San Jose police confirmed Davies was aware of the "Esther's" age. "They switched to Kik where the tipster told Davies she was 16 years-old, and Davies acknowledged," they said. "Davies then asked her to switch to Snapchat where they also discussed her being 16 years-old, and chatted about engaging in sexual activity."
Ethan (who withheld his last name for fear of retaliation) said he set out to identify potential pedophiles because a female friend of his had been molested as a child.
He carefully extracted small bits of information at a time to enable police to track Davies down, initially not realizing it was a cop he was talking to. He made sure to switch his phone to airplane mode to ensure Davies wasn't notified he was screenshotting their Snaps.
"I was just looking to get someone," Ethan said. "He just happened to be a cop."
Davies was placed on paid administrative leave. San Mateo police Chief Susan Manheimer said in a statement: "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.
"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."