Leader of local sexual predator watch group assaulted during live catch
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - A Gainesville man who started a group dedicated to catching sexual predators has been assaulted during an attempted live catch and he feels local law enforcement’s opinion of him affected the response time to his assault.
Cameron Decker started Florida Ped Patrol in November and in that time he has posted three live catch videos on his Youtube channel and he says that he is also in contact with over 50 other individuals around Alachua County and Gainesville. Decker poses as a minor and talks to adults over social media luring them into soliciting naked pictures and ultimately meeting up. His most recent catch resulted in a Citrus County man, 22-year old Christopher Stricker driving to Gainesville to meet what he thought was a 15-year old girl. Decker’s bust ended with him receiving a busted nose.
“He stepped up to me who I was holding my camera and my phone, I had no hands to defend myself and he attacked me,” said Decker.
The altercation was caught on video on his Youtube channel. Decker says that Alachua County Sherriff’s office officials arrived at the scene only after several people called on his behalf after watching the video even though he also contacted the law enforcement agency. Decker says that LEOs in the county do not respect his work and the feels this led to the low priority to his 911 call and the slow response time.
“And they let him go they walked him to his car and let him drive off and that is why I’m filing suit because I feel like I’m discriminated against because of my organization. The cops don’t like what I do here, but so far most of the people in Gainesville have supported what I’m doing,” said Decker.
Decker’s efforts have led to arrests as far south as St. Petersburg, but when he has attempted to get into contact with the Alachua County’s Internet Crimes Against Children, or ICAC task force he has been told that they do not take third party evidence for their investigations.
“Basically they told me the whole thing, well we can’t use any of your stuff so it’s kind of pointless for you to be doing this here. To which I responded, if you guys aren’t going to do anything that’s fine, we can still expose these people to the community and we do this for awareness anyway,” said Decker.
ASO responded about the ongoing case with Decker with this statement:
Regarding the case worked by ACSO, Mr. Decker was informed back in mid-October by ICAC that the US Department of Justice does not allow law enforcement to partner with private groups or persons. The ACSO does not support or condone vigilante justice and encourages the public to leave the law enforcement investigations to law enforcement, especially regarding the decision to make contact with a suspect. There are a myriad of potential issues that arise when private citizens intentionally interject themselves into confrontations with others.
That is exactly what happened on November 27, 2021, when Mr. Decker chose to confront Mr. Christopher Stricker, 22, after setting up a meeting with him under the pretense that he was meeting a 15-year-old female. The two became engaged in a verbal argument and Mr. Stricker committed a battery against Mr. Decker when he punched him in the face. Mr. Decker called 911 at 02:47 am. Three deputies and a supervisor responded to the incident, which was captured on video by Mr. Decker. Mr. Stricker has been charged with misdemeanor battery via a sworn complaint, a common charging practice in such cases.
Decker says he will look into suing the agency over the slow response time and the fact that other charges, such as the destruction of his cell phone should be added to Stricker’s charges.
While Alachua county takes these measures in cases such as these in Bradford county, Sheriff Gordon Smith says that they have accepted evidence from agencies such as Decker’s before, but he feels that people he decide to intervene should not do so without the help of law enforcement.
“What about the next individual you think you’re meeting up with? We can’t help you then it’s too late. So, we want to be there and help facilitate and be able to take into custody people who think they are committing such a crime and be able to get away with it or think that they are there for their own self-pleasure with some young boy or girl, which is sick,” said Sheriff Smith.
Decker says that he does not plan on stopping apprehending people at this point in time.
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