(TMU) — A 20-year-old college student in the San Francisco Bay Area used Snapchat’s popular gender swap filter to pose as an underage girl online and ended up busting a local police officer aiming to hook up with a minor on Tinder.
The student, Ethan, went undercover as a teenage girl named “Esther” in hopes to take down predators and pedophiles online after learning that a female friend of his had been molested as a child, according to NBC Bay Area.
It wasn’t long before one man messaged him, according to the student. Ethan explained:
“I believe he messaged me, ‘Are you down to have some fun tonight?’ and I decided to take advantage of it.”
“Esther” then moved the chat to another app in order to inform the man that “she” was only 16.
According to police, the suspect wasn’t bothered at all after learning that he was speaking to a minor. Over the next 12 hours, Ethan chatted with the man, who sent increasingly explicit messages.
“We started texting on there, and it got a lot more explicit,” Ethan explained.
The whole time, Ethan took screenshots of the man’s text messages while in airplane mode in order to prevent Snapchat from informing the other user that the shots were being taken. He then handed the screenshots over to Crime Stoppers.
As it turned out, the man looking for a good time with minors was Officer Robert Davies of the San Mateo Police Department. He was arrested last week by San Jose police on suspicion of discussing sexual activity with a minor on social media and now faces a charge of contacting a minor to commit a felony.
He used Snapchat’s “gender switch” filter to pose as a 16-year-old girl online, and take down a police officer allegedly looking to hook up. He tipped off the PD, and the officer was arrested.
Our exclusive interview with the man, and why he did it, at 11 on @nbcbayarea pic.twitter.com/VaGtg14uLL
— Ian Cull (@NBCian) June 11, 2019
Davies, who was recently recognized for his exemplary police leadership, has since been placed on paid administrative leave, according to his department. In a statement, SMPD Chief Susan Manheimer said:
“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.’”
We’ve all heard the warnings about “catfishing,” a colloquial term used for those who hide behind fake online personas to lure in unexpected victims for the sake of money, romance, or to cause physical harm. And among states with the most victims of catfishing, California is ranked number one in the country, with 2,105 victims of online cons in the state last year alone.
However, in this case, Ethan used the viral gender swap filter not just to amuse his friends online–as has been the case in recent months–but to catch a sexual predator who otherwise may have victimized his online prey if he hadn’t encountered “Esther.” Ethan explained:
“I was just looking to get someone. He just happened to be a cop.”