Police investigate the shooting death of man who often confronted alleged pedophiles
A Michigan man who claimed to expose alleged child predators online across his social media accounts was shot and killed last week, according to police.
Robert Wayne Lee — known across social media to his over 50,000 followers on Instagram as "Boopac Shakur" — would pose online as a 15-year-old girl to lure and expose alleged predators into meetings, the Oakland County, Mich., sheriff's office said in a news release.
On Sept. 29 at around 10:30 p.m., Lee was in a restaurant in the area of Pontiac, Mich., — a city 30 miles outside of Detroit — when he was shot and killed by a person during an argument.
The following day, investigators told reporters Lee confronted two males sitting at a table and accused one of them of being a pedophile before punching him. Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said one suspect pulled out a knife while the other pulled a gun, shooting Lee multiple times.
But in an updated statement on Tuesday, Bouchard said this no longer appeared to be the case.
"When we originally responded to the call, the community inferred he could have been there for that reason, to confront a pedophile," Bouchard told NBC News.
"As we get deeper in the investigation, we have yet to find any corroborative information on that point," he added.
So far, there is no evidence that the confrontation was a planned meeting or that it was part of any sting operation, police said. The two people who were allegedly involved in shooting Lee were a 16-year-old — who the prosecutor's office says is the suspected shooter — and an 18-year-old.
The case remains under investigation.
"My office is committed to a thorough review of all available information, and to holding those who commit violent crime and those who target children accountable," Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald said in a news release on Tuesday.
Being a vigilante can often do more harm than good, experts say
After his death, Lee's Facebook account was inundated with posts from his family, fans and those who knew him from the work he did online, some even calling him a hero.
Lee was inspired to start exposing alleged pedophiles after watching videos by a group called Dads Against Predators, The Oakland Press reported in January.
Authorities say Lee would often record and post those interactions and would sometimes bring the information he had to law enforcement.
But as news of Lee's killing continues to circulate across social media, his death is bringing to light the topic of vigilantism.
Both the Oakland County sheriff's and the prosecutor's offices voiced concerns about this practice, which they say can often interfere with law enforcement's ability to conduct investigations or properly gather evidence.
In two instances, Lee was investigated for and even charged with crimes for destroying property of individuals who were not the target of his "sting" operations, authorities said.
"We all share the goal of protecting children and removing child predators from our community ... however, when private citizens attempt to enter this realm, they often do not know what constitutes criminal conduct versus disgusting or disturbing conduct," Bouchard said in the latest news release.
And when citizens begin targeting persons they think are predators, oftentimes they can be wrong, said RaShall Brackney, distinguished visiting professor of practice at George Mason University.
"The problem is when we go from this neighborhood or communal way of policing to the very intentional targeting like To Catch a Predator, [these] methods may actually jeopardize investigations," she told NPR.
Brackney, who has years of experience in law enforcement — being the former police chief for Charlottesville, Va., and decades of serving in the Pittsburgh police department — said a person's vigilante behavior can also lead to more serious consequences, including death.
"You've got to be very careful about who you identify [as an alleged criminal] so you don't cause unintended harm to those who are innocent and have nothing to do with the situation," Brackney said.
"...we need to be really careful about how these processes go," she added.
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