RICHMOND, Virginia (WRIC) – “Why do you think it’s OK to come meet a 15 year old girl?” That’s what Henrico’s Richard Sexton asked a man he recently stuck in the toy aisle of a local store.
The man believed he was meeting an underage girl after he messaged an online profile created by Sexton, a 32-year-old sheet metal maker.
While local police departments are already carrying out undercover operations to find potential predators who solicit minors, Sexton has taken matters into his own hands, telling 8News that he believes typical investigative work is not not enough.
“If I can get 13 of these guys to have a meeting with a minor, you know, why doesn’t he do more?” ” he said.
In order to pressure these men to confess their intentions, Sexton records the meetings on his cell phone; often broadcast meetings live on a Facebook page known as “Richmond Against Predators”; the bulletin board of his operation founded in September.
“I personally know people who have been victimized by sexual abusers…” Sexton said. “It just inspired me to want to make a change.”
Sexton said some of the friends help create the fake profiles by submitting their own photos, which are then edited on a phone app to make them look younger. He also maintains that he does not engage in sexually explicit conversations, but is a sounding board for some men on the phone. His wife Ashleigh Sexton even acts as a “decoy” voice during audio phone calls with the accused.
After a recent “gotcha” encounter that started in the grocery section of a store, Sexton confronted a man in the parking lot saying, “You told him [the fake female profile] that you were going to hug her, but also that you were going [expletive] she like crazy. You said it, didn’t you? “
In the video, the man nods and says softly “yes”. Others whom Sexton cornered admitted they knew they were meeting an underage girl.
“So you’ve done this before,” he asked a man. “I have it,” the man replies.
“Then I have to call the police on you,” Sexton said.
“I don’t care if you’re here to play Monopoly with a 15 year old, if it’s my girl you bust with some shells, brother,” Sexton replied bluntly after a man admitted. that he thought he was meeting a minor.
While this sort of vigilante-like work is legal, Commonwealth of Richmond lawyer Colette McEachin weighed in on the circumstances surrounding moments of “embarrassment”.
McEachin told 8News that Operation Richmond Against Predators would not qualify as “criminal entrapment” under Virginia law, but “could be very dangerous for everyone involved.”
When asked if he does not feel safe in these situations, Sexton replied “no”.
“I think of a 13 year old girl that they could meet and pick up and do major damage to, and that immediately gives me a defensive kick to do what needs to be done to stop this stuff in our neighborhood.” he added.
Sexton’s response varies after presenting the allegations to these men; sometimes aggressively asking men to call a close relative for mental health counseling or services. Those who move away or move away? He says he called the police.
A spokesperson for the Henry Police Department told 8News “we would never encourage people to take charge of law enforcement …”