One of the Calgary men caught on video by a self-proclaimed "creep catcher" says there is more to his story and his name has been unfairly tarnished.
He came forward to CBC News saying he wanted to tell another side of the story behind the trend of vigilantes posing as young girls online with the goal of confronting, filming, and shaming alleged "creeps" on social media.
"I'm not a pedophile," said the 23-year-old man. "I don't want to be framed as a pedophile, when all I did was try to meet someone who stated they were 18."
CBC has agreed not to identify the man because there are no charges against him, and the video filmed by the "creep catcher" contains potentially defamatory material. He fears publishing his name would exacerbate the backlash he has already received, which has included hateful online messages against him.
The man was among the first to be caught on video last year by Dawson Raymond, a Calgarian who has been building a public profile as a "creep catcher" as he crusades against men allegedly looking for sex with underage girls. Raymond has since posted dozens of similar videos online.
The man said he has been unable to find work since the video of him was posted online more than six months ago.
"They just don't want to hire you because now you're framed as a pedophile," he said. "They're taking it on face value instead of actually knowing the facts, which I find is pretty shocking."
The man admits arranging a meeting with a person he believed to be a woman named Amanda, but said the online dating profile that initially caught his attention stated her age as 18.
After exchanging messages for two days, he said they set a place to meet in person, when suddenly her story changed.
"Just before our meet-up, she mentioned that she was 14 and then she corrected herself and said, 'No, I'm actually 13,'" he said. "Then she corrected herself and said, 'I'm 15.'"
"I thought 'OK, this is a complete joke. She's just messing around, wanting to get a reaction out of me.' I said, 'OK that doesn't matter. Your profile says you're 18. I'm taking you on fact that you are 18.'"
He said he then went to the arranged meeting place, a strip mall in the city's northeast, not sure exactly what to expect.
"I'd have no intention if they came out straightforward in the first text and said 'Oh, by the way, I'm 13 years old.' I would have said, 'No. This is done. We're not talking any more.'"
Video of the ensuing confrontation depicts Raymond walking up to the man's van, parked outside the strip mall, and knocking on his window and telling him to roll it down, which he does.
"You here to meet a 13-year-old girl?" Raymond asks.
"No," the man replies.
The two argue back and forth for about 30 seconds before the man rolls his window back up.
"I've got over two million views on my Facebook," Raymond yells as the man drives away. "Everyone's going to know who the f--k you are, you pedophile f--k."
The man said he drove straight home after the confrontation and called police, and then explained everything that happened to two officers who came to his home.
"I gave them my phone. I gave them my email account passwords. I gave them my phone password," he said.
The next day, he went to a police station to give a more detailed statement, and said he spent nearly two hours going over the online messages between him and "Amanda" with police.
The man provided CBC News with the case number and Calgary police confirmed they have an open file on the incident, with the man listed as the complainant. Police would not comment on the specifics of the case.
A search of Alberta criminal-court records turned up no files under either the man's name or Raymond's name.
Raymond did not reply to a request for comment Friday.
In a statement, Calgary police said they are aware of the incidents that Raymond has brought to their attention and they are "actively investigating these complaints."
"However the Calgary Police Service is not collaborating with Mr. Raymond in any way," the statement reads.
Police discourage citizens from "conducting their own investigations" into matters like this.
"A significant amount of training, preparation, and precautions are undertaken when police carry out similar undercover operations to the one Mr. Raymond is doing. Vigilante actions are dangerous for everyone involved as citizens are not trained on how to contain situations if they escalate to violence."
On his website, Raymond urges his followers to refrain from violence against the people in his videos.
"Share the videos, share the posts, mock, namecall, point them out in public (make sure 100 per cent it's them though please) — but to help us continue doing what we do, we urge you to not assault them or their property," the website states on its landing page.
"We share your disgust but violence won't help!"
Accusers could become accused
A growing number of Canadians are acting as "creep catchers," and an expanding network of loosely affiliated people are organizing local "chapters" in numerous provinces.
But these vigilantes run the risk of ending up with criminal charges laid against them, according to Carley Parish, a criminal defence lawyer in New Brunswick, where a recent creep-catcher "chapter" opened up.
Parish, who defended the so-called "Grand Manan Five," a high-profile case of vigilante action in New Brunswick, also said any videos "creep catchers" record would likely be useless as evidence in court.
"Anything that they collect, or any evidence, I can't see that as being admissible," said Parish.
Parish said posting videos like these online also carries the risk being sued in civil court, particularly for defamation.
The 23-year-old man in the Calgary incident said he has considered a lawsuit and has consulted four different lawyers about his options, but at the moment he figures he can't afford the up-front fees, which he said were quoted as high as $20,000.
On his website, Raymond includes a disclaimer, under the title "Legal Stuff."
"All persons portrayed are considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law," the website states. "We make no assertions to guilt and provide our viewers with content within the limits of Section 309 of the Criminal Code of Canada."
That section deals with defamatory libel, which is a criminal offence, but separate from the common-law sense of libel, which can be pursued in civil court.
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