October 24, 2021

Brian Petersen Died By Suicide After Allegedly Soliciting a Minor, and His Household Says the Cops Went Rogue.

10 min read


On July 31, 2019, Brian Petersen, a 39-year-old college trainer in Texas, went on the homosexual courting app Grindr and struck up a dialog with a person whose profile identify was “Recent Meat.”

He requested how the person’s week was going and if he was “on the lookout for one thing tonight,” in accordance with a transcript of the chat obtained by The Day by day Beast. “You into youthful boys,” the person replied, apparently posing the query.

When Petersen requested for the person’s age, he stated “below 18.” Petersen urged there was “wriggle room”: In Texas, the age of consent is 17.

However after repeated questioning from Petersen about his age, “Recent Meat” stated he was a 14-year-old named Jason. Petersen requested what college he went to, his sexual expertise, and if he may “take it.”

The dialog quickly turned towards a deliberate assembly the following day.

Hours earlier than the encounter, Petersen grew to become nervous and first requested for a voice message. After receiving it, he stated the voice was “not what I used to be anticipating.”

Later that day, driving round in circles at a parking zone the place the 2 have been supposed to satisfy, Petersen realized he was talking neither to an adolescent nor a possible romantic associate. As an alternative, it was a cop: 41-year-old Conroe Police Detective Darrick Dunn, who arrested Petersen for on-line solicitation of a minor.

The case rapidly turned tragic. Lower than 48 hours after bonding out of jail, Petersen died by suicide. However the trainer left behind his personal model of occasions, one his household is now utilizing to level the finger at what they describe as overzealous regulation enforcement.

In a notice penned earlier than his loss of life, Petersen claimed he at all times knew he was speaking to an grownup as a result of a dated {photograph} shared by Dunn, inconsistent particulars about what college the boy allegedly went to and, most tellingly, he claimed, the voice memo. Though Dunn admitted to sending it, the memo was by no means saved as proof—one thing Petersen’s household and their lawyer say would have exonerated Petersen.

“It was nearly cute how humorous the message was as you pretended to be a 14-year-old white boy. You have been, to me, a man my age role-playing as a youthful man,” Petersen wrote in regards to the memo, straight addressing Dunn, who’s Black.

He stated he’d at all times supported regulation enforcement’s efforts to catch predators in stings—till he realized they weren’t at all times focused operations to catch males explicitly searching and soliciting minors. As an alternative, he argued, they generally grew to become “dragnets” that might ensnare males with no historical past of such wishes or crimes.

That he would possibly in the end beat his cost in a courtroom was “irrelevant,” the junior-high trainer wrote. “That is the kind of accusation that destroys a profession and a life.”

Petersen’s criticism has been taken up by his household, who lately filed a federal lawsuit in opposition to the Conroe Police Division. They instructed The Day by day Beast they wish to clear his identify, and convey wanted scrutiny to online-solicitation arrests they are saying might be rushed due to society’s unanimous disdain for intercourse crimes in opposition to minors.

“Brian wished us to make sure that this didn’t occur to different individuals,” Douglas Petersen, Brian’s father, instructed The Day by day Beast. “He shouldn’t have been charged with a criminal offense, he wasn’t a prison.”

Though Petersen’s cellphone, computer systems, and residential have been searched after his arrest, no additional proof of prison exercise was reported, in accordance with Conroe Police data obtained by The Day by day Beast.

Kelly Strader, a regulation professor at Southwestern Legislation College in California who has studied sting operations in opposition to homosexual males throughout the nation, agreed with Petersen’s household after reviewing the Grindr transcript and the opposite proof in opposition to Petersen.

Though he admitted Petersen could have stored the dialog going longer than he ought to have, Strader stated he didn’t perceive why police have been focusing on him within the first place. “Had individuals complained? Had mother and father complained?” he stated. “What was the premise for this? Or was it merely the police saying, ‘OK, let’s exit and seize some homosexual guys?’”

Strader stated his analysis has proven sting operations just like the one in opposition to Petersen usually have the potential to ensnare males who are usually not significantly harmful or posing hurt—at the very least previous to the operation in query.

“Sting operations are going after individuals sort of at random,” he stated. He questioned why the Conroe Police Division would spend their sources going after Petersen with none data of prior acts or accusations. “Proof. A tip. One thing,” he stated. “From what I’ve examine this case, there was nothing like that. To me, that’s what’s heartbreaking.”

Although Strader stated he believes the costs in opposition to Petersen would have ultimately been dropped for lack of corroborating proof, he stated that suicide primarily based on accusations alone is, sadly, not unusual. Maybe probably the most publicized deaths additionally occurred in Texas, when Louis Conradt, a district lawyer, killed himself as police and a digicam crew tried to serve him with an arrest warrant for allegedly soliciting intercourse from an undercover detective posing as a minor.

Conradt’s arrest was to be a part of the famed To Catch a Predator tv collection. The collection was canceled shortly after his loss of life, and the person’s household later settled a lawsuit with NBC.

“There are many reviews of suicides after arrests throughout sting operations,” Strader defined, noting that many males caught up in sting operations are usually not brazenly homosexual and really feel immense disgrace after their arrest.

However whilst former prosecutors briefed on Petersen’s case acknowledged gray areas, in addition they stated regulation enforcement was in a troublesome spot to let somebody go as soon as they continued talking with somebody representing themself as a baby.

Provided that Petersen was a trainer, Christopher Macchiaroli, a former assistant U.S. lawyer who now works as a prison protection lawyer in Washington, D.C., stated, the scrutiny needs to be even larger.

“What are you ready for earlier than you might have sufficient which you could say, ‘You already know what, we now have to arrest this man?’” he stated.

The Conroe Police Division declined to remark for this story. Detective Dunn didn’t reply to a request for remark.

Petersen, who was born and raised in California, moved to Texas to proceed his profession in educating—one thing his brother, Chad, stated he’d at all times had an curiosity in. Chad Petersen instructed The Day by day Beast his brother labored his approach up from a trainer’s aide and substitute to a junior-high college historical past trainer in Conroe. Simply earlier than his loss of life, he’d been on the brink of begin a job as a highschool A.P. historical past trainer, which Petersen’s brother stated he referred to as his “dream job.”

After the arrest, his brother stated, “every little thing got here crashing down.”

In keeping with his household, Petersen was by no means arrested or disciplined for any crimes or different misconduct. The Conroe Impartial College District, the place Petersen taught, didn’t reply to a request for any data of conduct points or self-discipline, and a criminal-records search by The Day by day Beast didn’t flip up any earlier expenses earlier than the person’s August 2019 arrest.

We see many individuals who, as quickly as they hear the age, they’re like, ‘I’m out.’

Barbara Martinez, former chief of the particular prosecutions part on the U.S. Lawyer’s Workplace for the Southern District of Florida

Though Petersen’s cellphone, computer systems, and residential have been searched after his arrest, no additional proof of prison exercise was reported, in accordance with Conroe Police data obtained by The Day by day Beast. The Montgomery County District Lawyer’s Workplace, who would have prosecuted Petersen’s case, additionally didn’t reply to a request for remark.

Chad Petersen stated the final time he spoke to his brother was the day earlier than his loss of life, as a result of his personal son had simply been born. He recalled Petersen expressing his congratulations after which oddly remaining silent within the coming days, not returning calls and messages from him or his mother and father.

It wasn’t till Petersen’s mother and father flew to Texas and OK’ed police entry into his dwelling that they found him useless. A health worker dominated it a suicide.

Chad Petersen stated they couldn’t make sense of the cost till they heard Petersen’s aspect of the story within the notice left earlier than his loss of life. Though some within the household suspected he was homosexual, his brother stated, Petersen had by no means formally come out to them.

“You’ll probably hear a horrible factor about me; particularly that I used to be arrested for on-line solicitation of a minor,” Petersen began the notice. “Even writing that makes me should pause.”

The notice goes on to say that Petersen was lively on Grindr, and primarily connected with guys who have been into “dad” sorts. He stated he’d additionally met males who loved role-playing as youthful males, however that he by no means had an curiosity in minors. He criticized regulation enforcement for being dangerous at pretending to be teenagers, and stated he by no means believed he was going to satisfy a teen the day he was arrested. As an alternative, he claimed, he figured he was going to satisfy “somebody with an ageplay need who was most likely a Black man my age, as I’ve accomplished a couple of instances earlier than.”

Strader stated “age-play” or role-playing as youthful or older companions is frequent in subsets of the homosexual neighborhood, and is usually associated to sexual fantasies, not prison exercise. He stated defendants in sting operations usually declare they have been pushed by fantasies and that they by no means had intentions of getting intercourse with an actual minor—although it’s a declare most juries don’t purchase.

Douglas Petersen stated that after studying his son’s notice and reviewing the chat on Grindr, he believed Dunn unfairly initiated the dialog round underage sexual exercise. He additionally argued his son initially believed he was messaging somebody who was 18 or older, as customers are speculated to be on Grindr.

“Dunn was on the market trolling,” Petersen stated. “Brian was responding to that.”

After subsequently suggesting to Petersen he was below 18 however not but indicating he was 14, Dunn requested Petersen once more within the chat if he was into “youthful boys.” Petersen wrote again, “I’m into guys which are attention-grabbing. I’m not significantly into youthful guys, however I don’t write them off both.”

After Dunn despatched Petersen a decoy image of himself displaying a white, smiling teen, Petersen wrote, “How previous although?” Dunn responded, “Nicely I’m younger simply letting .. however I’m enjoyable and funky.”

However Petersen pressed for an age. “How previous? You look enjoyable and funky. I simply want information to select.” The 2 went backwards and forwards, discussing a attainable assembly, however Petersen continued to ask for an age first.

It was at this level that Dunn wrote that he was 14 and Petersen started to query him about his college, what would occur in the event that they have been to see one another in public, and his sexual expertise.

Barbara Martinez, a former chief of the particular prosecutions part on the U.S. Lawyer’s Workplace for the Southern District of Florida who supervised instances like Petersen’s for over a decade, stated the totality of the case in opposition to him didn’t sound like a fantastic prosecution. She particularly cited the shortage of specific curiosity in minors, and the absence of hoards of photographs and movies sometimes present in different instances.

Nonetheless, she stated, she was struck by the truth that Petersen continued to have interaction with Dunn after he reported himself to be 14. “We see many individuals who, as quickly as they hear the age, they’re like, ‘I’m out’,” she stated.

Randall Lee Kallinen, an lawyer representing Petersen’s household, stated he believes Petersen asking questions on Dunn’s college, casting doubt on the locations the place the cop reported to stay as a result of his data of college districts, and his request and response to the voice memo all level to his not really believing Dunn was a baby.

This even when he by no means explicitly stated so within the chat.

The lawyer additionally famous that the 13-second voice memo Dunn despatched to Petersen was by no means retained as proof, which he argued would probably exonerate Petersen if the voice clearly gave the impression of a grown man.

For her half, Martinez, the previous prosecutor, stated a typical technique in such instances is to present suspects possibilities to stroll away from the dialog or potential assembly as a technique to persuade a jury the defendant was set on partaking with a minor.

A assessment of the Grindr chat between Petersen and Dunn exhibits that, close to the deliberate assembly time on Aug. 1, 2019, Dunn instructed Petersen he was “nervous” as a result of Petersen was being “secretive” and never revealing details about himself. Petersen didn’t press the assembly and requested a number of instances if they need to name it off. At one level, he expressed his personal anxiousness, writing “that is new for me” as a result of, he stated, he typically solely met males over 25.

“I’m probably about as nervous as you might be,” he wrote. When Dunn requested what they might do after they met, Petersen didn’t point out intercourse or bodily exercise. “We discuss for a bit. I drop you again off. Then we discuss on right here to see if we wish to proceed something immediately,” he wrote.

Chad Petersen stated he supported sting operations and regulation enforcement going after males who prey on minors. However he stated it was clear to him that his brother was not a kind of males.

“This was fallacious,” he stated.

For those who or a liked one are fighting suicidal ideas, please attain out to the Nationwide Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or contact the Disaster Textual content Line by texting TALK to 741741.

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