It may seem like a noble cause to some, but a vigilante crusade against online predators has resulted in a confrontation involving an innocent civilian.
Jason O’Hara, a Calgary father was parked outside a northeast convenience store eating a late night snack and chatting with his wife on the phone. Without warning a pair of young men in their late teens rushed up to his window and started videotaping him. O’Hara said they were began accusing him of texting and luring a 14-year-old girl.
“They were saying I was guilty like ‘yup he’s the guy! He’s the one,’ confirming to themselves I’m the guy, while they were in my face with their phones. O’Hara said the whole experience was humiliating. “It’s a little insulting and a little threatening.” He called police who responded in minutes and intervened.
“I wasn’t doing anything wrong to be so shockingly accused of something.” O’Hara said. “I was worried about having someone videotape me with the intent to publish these videos and mistakenly putting my face out there as some kind of pervert.”
Police made sure the young men deleted the potentially harmful video. Investigators say the teens told them they were conducting a social media experiment and realized they had the wrong guy.
The officer in charge of the internet child exploitation team says these public punishers have a higher risk of making mistakes. “It’s inevitable they are going to get the wrong person. They could ruin a person’s life.” Sgt. John Guigon said special training and experience is what will catch online predators. “It takes search warrants and surveillance and other investigative techniques to make sure we have the right person.” Guigon said. “They are trying people in the court of public opinion and that goes against my sense of justice.”
Police say it’s unlikely O’Hara has any grounds to lay charges. The wrongfully accused man says he would settle for an apology.
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