FLINT, MI — A Burton firefighter who served as a former police officer with multiple agencies in Genesee County is one of 17 people arrested in a months-long operation by the Genesee Human Oppression Strike Team, or GHOST.
Matthew J. Hyde, 40, of Burton is charged with child sexually abusive activity, accosting a child for immoral purposes and using a computer to commit a crime.
He was one of the suspects arrested during the most recent operation that began in March.
Other suspects named, who were arraigned, include John Linsner, 43, of Grand Blanc; Pong Lor, 34, of Shelby Township; Ronald Brooks, 26, of Flint; Thomas Trinklein, 34, of Saginaw; Michael Beaudoin, 38, of Howell; Erik Middlewood, 30, of Otisville; and, Lonnie Anderson-Hendrick, 38, of Lapeer.
Nine additional suspects have been charged but not yet arraigned.
Genesee County Sheriff Chris Swanson said at a Wednesday, Aug. 19, press conference that Hyde believed he was speaking to two 14-year-old girls who really were sheriff’s deputies acting as “chatters.”
“He had a 15-minute phone call with one of our decoys,” noted Swanson. “In his truck when he was arrested, he had two loaded firearms, a police ID, a police badge of which he was not associated with.”
Hyde also previously worked as an officer for the Mt. Morris Police Department, Clayton Township Police Department, as well as a Genesee County Parks ranger.
Swanson told MLive-The Flint Journal that Hyde also previously worked in the Marine Division for the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office, but he was not a certified police officer at the time.
Burton Mayor Duane Haskins said Hyde has been suspended without pay from the fire department.
Haskins, who previously served with the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office, called “pinning the badge on your chest right above your heart is a thing most of us hold true as honor and integrity and to protect and save and work for people.”
“When you have somebody that has that badge and they go the other way and they do something derogatory, it then instills the distrust in the public,” said Haskins. “I just want to let everybody know, especially in our city and the residents of Burton, that please don’t look at one individual that our fire department now is tainted and it’s bad. This was addressed, this was handled, it was corrected. This individual is no longer with the city.”
Swanson rhetorically asked why he continues to hold press conferences about GHOST team operations.
“These folks are among us and I want them to know there’s a watchdog out there,” he said. “I don’t want anybody to show up and if people have struggles with that, then they get professional help and not harm another child.”
Frank Manley, Hyde’s attorney who has handled several GHOST team cases, said, “Nobody is for the exploitation of minors”
“Social media clouds people’s judgment because it makes them feel invisible, as opposed to being face-to-face with someone,” he added. “Human frailty cuts across all socioeconomic lines…Every case is vastly different and the defenses are factually based, not career-based.”
Hyde is due back in court Aug. 20 for a probable cause conference.
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