How a Snapchat filter led to the arrest of an off-duty cop

Jun 12, 2019, 1:19 PM | Updated: 1:21 pm

snapchat filter...

A California college student used this Snapchat Gender Bender filter to pose as a teen girl to see if he could help police identify potential pedophiles. (Photo: NBC Bay Area)

(Photo: NBC Bay Area)

SAN FRANCISCO — A Bay Area college student didn’t need any superpowers or a utility belt to fight crime. Instead, he used the popular “gender bender” Snapchat filter.

South Bay College student Ethan, who didn’t say his last name for fear of retaliation, told police that a close friend had told him about how she had been molested as a child, and that spurred him to create a fake profile on the online dating app Tinder to help identify possible pedophiles.

“I was just looking to get someone,” the 20-year-old told NBC Bay Area. “He just happened to be a cop.”

40-year-old Robert Davies was arrested by the San Jose Police department on one count of communicating with a minor for the purposes of committing a felony.

Ethan used the Snapchat filter to make himself look like a girl and then posed online as a 16-year-old named Esther who was lying about her age on Tinder. That’s when he says a conversation started with 40-year-old San Mateo police officer Rober Davies.

Police say that the conversations started on Tinder in early May according to CBS News and that their conversations then moved to the anonymous messenger app KIK and then later to Snapchat.

“I believe he messaged me, ‘Are you down to have some fun tonight?’ and I decided to take advantage of it,” Ethan said. After moving apps, Ethan said the conversation became more explicit even after he said he talked about only being 16.

Throughout the course of the conversations, Ethan compiled a number of screenshots making sure not to let Snapchat notify Davies that the screenshots were being taken.

Davies has since been arrested on one count of communicating with a minor for the purposes of committing a felony and placed on paid administrative leave according to the San Mateo police.

Police Chief Susan Manheimer said in a statement that, “This alleged conduct, if true, is in no way a reflection of all that we stand for as a Department, and is an affront to the tenets of our department and our profession as a whole.”

Ryan Holtan from the Utah Attorney General’s Office told Dave and Dujanovic on Wednesday that he and the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force have seen an uptick in child predation online since the inception of their task force. ICAC looks specifically at cases involving minors.

“We have dozens and dozens of people who are showing up expecting to meet a 13-year-old girl or a 13-year-old girl and have a sexual relationship with them,” he said.

Just last month, 13 men were arrested from around Utah in a coordinated sting effort.

Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat are the three big social media sites that predators will use most often to get in touch with children, Holtan says.

“These predators are looking to build a relationship as someone that the child can trust at the exclusion of their parents or caregivers. They can then build that to an in-person meeting,” he said.

Holtan says that it’s important that parents understand the social media sites that their children are on and how they work as well as what they can look for to recognize if they are being preyed upon.

You can find a list of resources provided by the ICAC here.

Tune into Dave & Dujanovic from 9 a.m to noon on KSL Newsradio 102.7 FM / 1160 AM, every Monday through Thursday.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

All News

Wyoming has an artificial intelligence running for mayor....

Michael Camit

An artificial intelligence is running for mayor in Wyoming

An artificial intelligence running for mayor? Sounds like science fiction but it's happening in Wyoming in 2024.

11 minutes ago

A car is filled at a gas pump in Sandy on Tuesday, March 19, 2024. Utah gas prices are currently be...

Allessandra Harris Gurr

Utah gas prices below national average in time for summer season

Utah gas prices are below the national average price for gas and the prices are expected to stay that way over the summer.

1 hour ago

Vehicles travel on I-15 in Salt Lake City on June 16. Roughly 71 million people are expected to tra...

Adam Small

Nearly 71 million people expected to travel for the Fourth of July

Up to 71 million people are expected to be traveling for the Fourth of July this year through both driving and plane.

2 hours ago

the bikeriders movie poster next to ksl movie show host steve salles...

Steve Salles

KSL Movie Show review: ‘The Bikeriders’ didn’t blow me away

In this KSL Movie Show review, we dive into "The Bikeriders," a film based on a photo book by Danny Lyon.

3 hours ago

Supreme Court Police officers stand on duty outside of the Supreme Court building on Thursday, June...

MARK SHERMAN, Associated Press

The Supreme Court upholds a gun control law intended to protect domestic violence victims

The Supreme Court has upheld a federal gun control law on Friday with intentions to protect domestic violence victims.

3 hours ago

june squibb...

Jeff Caplan

Jeff Caplan’s Minute of News: Hollywood’s newest starlet? She’s 94

Arriving in theatres tonight is a different kind of movie, it’s called "Thelma." The star is June Squibb and she’s adorable.

4 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Underwater shot of the fisherman holding the fish...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Your Bear Lake fishing guide

Bear Lake offers year-round fishing opportunities. By preparing ahead of time, you might go home with a big catch!

A group of people cut a purple ribbon...


Comcast announces major fiber network expansion in Utah

Comcast's commitment to delivering extensive coverage signifies a monumental leap toward a digitally empowered future for Utahns.

a doctor putting her hand on the chest of her patient...

Intermountain Health

Intermountain nurse-midwives launch new gynecology access clinic

An access clinic launched by Intermountain nurse-midwives provides women with comprehensive gynecology care.

Young couple hugging while a realtor in a suit hands them keys in a new home...

Utah Association of Realtors

Buying a home this spring? Avoid these 5 costly pitfalls

By avoiding these pitfalls when buying a home this spring, you can ensure your investment will be long-lasting and secure.

a person dressed up as a nordic viking in a dragon boat resembling the bear lake monster...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

The Legend of the Bear Lake Monster

The Bear Lake monster has captivated people in the region for centuries, with tales that range from the believable to the bizarre.


Live Nation Concerts

All the artists coming to Utah First Credit Union Amphitheatre (formerly USANA Amp) this summer

Summer concerts are more than just entertainment; they’re a celebration of life, love, and connection.

How a Snapchat filter led to the arrest of an off-duty cop