GARRETT, Ind. (WANE) — Three men are facing felony child solicitation charges after being busted by the Garrett Police Department in a social media sting.
A concerned citizen approached Garrett Police and said her granddaughter created a Facebook page and in a short time, she’d received many friend requests from older men. To crack down on the solicitation, Officer Michael Shutts set up a Facebook account that appeared to be that of a 14-year-old girl.
Once the sting page was set up, Shutts “received an overwhelming response,” police said.
According to a probable cause affidavit, 26-year-old Brandon Shirk sent a message to the Facebook account on Aug. 1. Shirk asked the “girl” how old she was. The officer responded back “I’m 14, [what about you]?” The accused responded he is 26.
Shirk asked the “girl” if she wanted marijuana, according to court documents. Shirk wrote to the “girl,” “Just wondering you ain’t a cop in anyway are you?” The officer responded with “Yea they hiring 14 yr old cops now,” as way to remind Shirk of the girls age, the affidavit said.
Police said Shirk asked the child to meet at a library on Aug. 4. When pressed what they would do, Shirk said “[I don’t know] yet something fun.” The “girl” asked what type of fun, Shirk responded with “So you trying to have sex with me?”
The officer responded with “Ya, so [you’re] down to [explative]?” Shirk responded with “Ya,” according to the affidavit.
The officer gave the address in the 200 block of South Ijams Street. According to the affidavit, Shirk said he was at the library, and the officer drove by and saw Shirk near the building. Shirk was arrested.
Police found a bag of marijuana, a glass smoking pipe, and two condoms on Shirk. When Shirk was processed at the DeKalb County Jail, police found methamphetamine on him, too, according to the affidavit.
Shirk is facing a felony count of child solicitation with enhancements of being a repeat and habitual sexual offender, possession of marijuana, and possession of meth.
Shirk has previously been convicted of sexual battery in 2014.
In another case, on Aug. 9, 21-year-old Bryson Greer initiated a conversation with the same Facebook account by saying, “Hey what’s up.” According to a probable cause affidavit, Greer was using an account with the name Kane Jonny Johnson, but the images on the page matched the physical appearance of Greer, the affidavit said.
It wasn’t until Aug. 12 that “Kane” asked the “girl” what she was looking for. The officer then asked Kane’s age. He said he was 21, and asked the child how she was. The officer responded 14.
Kane continued the conversation with the girl, telling her he thinks she’s cute, and sending pictures of himself, according to the affidavit. He asked the child to send pictures to him.
The officer said Kane sent a message saying, “Oh I would say [I’ll] come over like a flash in the wind [and] make love to [you like you] never had before,” according to the affidavit. The officer asked if Kane really wanted to do that, and he said yes and requested “freaky” pictures of the girl, the affidavit said.
Kane then sent the girl sexually explicit images and said he wanted to do sexual acts with her, the affidavit said.
On Aug. 13, Kane asked for the girl’s address and to set up a time to meet. The officer gave an address in the 100 block of South 7th Street, and Kane said he would be dropped off by his mother in a Volkswagen Jetta.
Officers saw a Jetta near the address, and pulled it over. Greer was in the passenger seat, with his mother driving, the affidavit detailed.
Greer was placed under arrest. Police found a condom in his pocket.
During an interview with police, Greer said he thought the girl he was talking to was 16. The officer told Greer he was actually speaking to him on Facebook, and he showed him the message where he said the child was 14, the affidavit said.
The officer asked what his intentions were, and Greer told the officer he could see on the social media messages what his intentions were, according to the affidavit.
Greer provided police with the username and password to his account, where the officer saw the account with the name Kane Jonny Johnson.
In a third case, 33-year-old Donald Stafford was charged with felony child solicitation charge in the sting.
This is the first time the Garrett Police Department has used Facebook in a child solicitation sting.
Garrett’s police chief said his department is full of younger officers that show great initiative to conduct police work in all realms. The officers are willing to step out and try something new.