Watch coverage from local CBS affiliate WFMY-TV here.
When the 25-year-old arrived, he was confronted by three men who demanded to know why he was there. It turned out that the men were members of “Dads Against Predators” (D.A.P.), an outfit whose founders say they were so disgusted with how police and prosecutors handle child predator cases that they decided to take it upon themselves to expose suspected pedophiles. One of the assailants was filming the encounter on his phone.
A fight broke out, leading the target to pull a gun and shoot one of the D.A.P. members in the leg, forcing the store’s evacuation. The D.A.P. troupe took the gun and dumped it off three miles away. The 25-year-old was treated at a nearby hospital for his injuries, including cuts on his face, swelling, and a black eye. He told WFMY that he didn’t know any of his attackers. Later that night, Winston-Salem police chief Catrina Thompson held a press conference to warn these vigilante groups that their tactics do more harm than good. Not only do they frequently hinder investigations due to their lack of training, but they put themselves and the public in danger due to their frequent practice of luring targets to public places.
This situation draws parallels with NBC show To Catch a Predator, in which host Chris Hansen worked alongside Perverted-Justice to conduct stings of suspected pedophiles. That show was forced off the air in 2007 after a local prosecutor committed suicide on-air as police and a camera crew barreled into his home. NBC was all but forced to settle with the prosecutor’s family after federal judge Denny Chin—later known as the judge in the Madoff case—laid into the network for stampeding police into a completely disproportionate response.
The D.A.P. members were seen fleeing in a car with Ohio plates. The following day, law enforcement in Fremont, Ohio revealed that one of the D.A.P. members was treated and released for minor injuries at a local hospital. They would have easily been able to get north driving all night.
Fast forward a week. According to local Fox affiliate WGHP, the three men have been identified as Joshua Mundy and Jay Carnicom of Fremont and Jason Chipps of Marion, North Carolina. Winston-Salem police believe that they lured the 25-year-old man to Target after one of them posed as a minor on Meetup. Carnicom was the man who was shot in the scuffle.
Fremont’s assistant chief of police is very familiar with D.A.P.; the group has been banned from a number of grocery stores because their attempts to lure suspected predators often degenerated into violence. He wasn’t at all surprised to find out that D.A.P. was involved.
It turns out that D.A.P. has gained quite a bit of infamy in Ohio. In 2020, WOIO in Cleveland reported that local prosecutors, as well as the state Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, were tearing their collective hair out over D.A.P.’s tactics. State task force commander Dave Frattare told WOIO that D.A.P. and others like them are acting like “judge and jury on the street.” He also added that with few exceptions, their confrontations aren’t admissible in court.
Under Ohio law, messages like the ones the group is sending can only be entered as evidence in court if they are from a real child or a real law enforcement officer posing as a child.
“This notion that you know law enforcement isn’t doing anything with this information forgets the whole idea that this information in the first place is not valid. It’s not you know, it’s not legal. It’s not going to hold up in court,” Frattare said.
Cliff Notes version: thanks to D.A.P., it’s very possible that a lot of predators may get away without ever facing justice. This harkens back to the fate of the sting that led to the end of To Catch a Predator. Prosecutors in Collin County, Texas were forced to drop all charges because the police didn’t do any real investigation prior to making the arrests—thus making the arrests illegal under Texas law.
Law enforcement and prosecutors in Sandusky County, home to Fremont, expressed similar concerns in the fall of 2020. After at least two and possibly three D.A.P. targets committed suicide after their encounters went live, they told D.A.P., “We’ve had enough.”
Either stop or potentially face prosecution, the release warned the group.
“Local law enforcement agencies and prosecutors of Sandusky County and the City of Fremont cannot and will not sit back anymore and watch as DAP continues to parade its form of vigilante justice,” the release says. “Its intentions may be well intended, but their methods and outcomes are improper and unacceptable. The ‘exposed’ individuals may be exactly what DAP says they are, but they also may not be.
“The judicial system shall decide whether these individuals are in fact guilty or not guilty, and everyone has the right to a due process,” it said.
In light of this history, one part of WFMY’s report on the Target encounter is particularly hard to understand.
Winston-Salem police said they are not actively looking for the three D.A.P. men involved in the incident. Police said their Gun Crime Reduction Unit is currently investigating what happened.
Excuse me? These guys have shown time and again that they have no regard for public safety despite repeated warnings. Moreover, their tactics have likely resulted in some very bad people getting away. Mundy and friends must be tracked down, and they must be arrested.