Michael Hankins plead guilty to child solicitation and was sentenced to three years of probation.
AVON, Ind. — A former police officer from Portland Indiana was arrested this week accused of child solicitation.
The investigation started with a vigilante group who works to confront alleged predators.
Prosecutors claim the suspect in this case drove over a hundred miles to come to Avon where he was confronted by members of Predator Catchers Indianapolis, who posed as a 14-year-old girl to arrange the meeting.
After the suspect showed up at the Olive Garden in Avon, he found himself being recorded on Facebook live, with fellow members of law enforcement looking on.
“We were alerted to a live stream video from the catch a predator group,” said Avon police chief Sean Stoops.
Court records the suspect, Joshua Clark, engaged in lengthy sexual conversations with someone he believed to be underage, using the message app Kik.
“It’s concerning because he was a law enforcement officer,” said Stoops.
”We do police our own officers,” said Portland police chief Josh Stephenson.
During his arrest this week, Clark was wearing a “DangerRUs” shirt, and his former employer also went on Facebook to thank Avon for the investigation, adding that despite their disappointment transparency is the best way to maintain public trust.
“Any crime allegedly committed against a child is appalling; one involving a law enforcement officer is completely unacceptable,” the Portland police posted on its Facebook page.
“It’s always hard when you have a law enforcement officer arrested because we strive so hard to maintain a high standard in our community,” said Stephenson. “If we keep that transparency, it’s going to show the public we’re not going to hide it from you.”
Clark was immediately suspended and later resigned from his job.
Earlier this month Avon police also helped prosecute another suspect, Michael Hankins, after he was confronted by PCI allegedly trying to meet an underage girl at Ashley Furniture.
Despite those arrests, the Avon and Portland police chiefs agree the vigilante confrontations are dangerous.
“We don’t really support what they’re doing because they’re not law enforcement, but we have a problem if there’s an individual conducting themselves like the suspect was. We’re kind of torn,” said Stoops.
“They’re doing what they think is right, but they need to reach out to local law enforcement to make sure this is done safely for them,” said Stephenson.
Avon’s police chief added his department conducted their own independent investigation to make sure the case can stand up in court
“Even the best-case scenario in these cases provides us with a tremendous amount of hurdles to overcome legally,” admits Stoops.
Clark is being held on a $50,000 bond at the Hendricks County Jail.