The student allegedly obtained explicit images of minors, used the images to coerce them into performing sexual acts, and shared them with a teacher.
According to police, Max Rookstool, a 17-year-old student at Northwest High School in Grand Island, obtained explicit images of minors through a “social media ruse” and used the images to coerce them into performing sexual acts, reports The Grand Island Independent. Those images were then shared with 37-year-old Brian Mohr, an English teacher at the school.
Rookstool, who is being charged as an adult, has been charged with two counts of human trafficking, two counts of human trafficking of a minor, one count of first-degree sexual assault, 11 counts of visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct, and one count of unlawful distribution of images or videos of another person’s intimate area. Mohr was arrested as a suspect on multiple counts of possession of sexually explicit material.
Numerous images have been identified as Northwest students. Grand Island police said the number of students affected has not been determined as interviews are on-going.
“Our primary concern is for the people who are possibly affected by this case that they know that they’re not alone and they can come forward by either reporting it to the police department or contacting our victim witness advocates,” said Captain Jim Duering.
Northwest Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Jeffrey Edwards released a statement indicating the district would be providing support services and counseling for students.
“Although the District is unable to comment on any specifics due to student confidentiality and personnel privacy laws, Mr. Mohr will not be returning to the classroom,” the statement added.
The alleged crimes took place between Aug. 1, 2018, and Oct. 4, 2019. The arrests were a result of an investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Grand Island Police Department.
According to ICE, the investigation was conducted under HSI’s Operation Predator, an international initiative started in 2003 to protect children from sexual predators.
HSI and Grand Island police urge anyone who may be affected by this case or any other exploitation to contact the police department (308) 385-5400 or the HSI anonymous tip line at 866-DHS-2-ICE. Anonymous tips can also be submitted at https://www.ice.gov/tipline.
National Human Trafficking Awareness Month
January is National Human Trafficking Awareness Month. According to Business Insider, since 2007, more than 49,000 cases of human trafficking in the U.S. have been reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. The hotline receives an average of 150 calls per day.
It is also estimated that between 18,000 and 20,000 victims are trafficked into the U.S. every year.
Here are seven general safety tips from the National Human Trafficking Hotline:
- Trust your judgment. If a situation/individual makes you uncomfortable, trust that feeling.
- Let a trusted friend or relative know if you feel like you are in danger or if a person or situation is suspicious.
- Set up safety words with a trusted friend/relative; one word can mean it is safe to talk and you are alone and another word can mean you are not safe.
- Have all important documents and identification in your possession at all times.
- Keep important numbers on your person at all times, including the number of someone you feel safe contacting if you are in trouble.
- Have a means of communication (cell phone or phone card), access to your bank account and any medication you might need with you at all times.
- If you think you might be in immediate danger or are experiencing an emergency, call 9-1-1 first.
For more tips and potential red flags for human trafficking situations, visit humantraffickinghotline.org.