Prosser police say viral photo falsely accuses man of sex trafficking
PROSSER, Wash. — Prosser police say a false rumor is spreading through a social media post identifying a man as a potential sex trafficker.
The rumor stems from a concerned staff member at Housel Middle School who claimed that a man in a silver truck was acting suspiciously. The staff member reported the man to school security last week, said Prosser Police Ofc. Mark Cole.
According to police, the man in the truck was reportedly taking photos of the staff member at a Love’s Truck Stop without her consent, which is not a crime since they were in public.
The staff member took a photo of the man and sent it to a school security guard, claiming she believed the incident was suspicious.
Someone apparently got ahold of the photo and posted it to social media with the following text: “if you see this man, LEAVE ASAP!! he’s been following girls around in prosser and is believed to be a sex trafficker! please be aware of your surroundings.”
Ofc. Cole said the police department has spoken to the man in the photo and authorities do not have any reason to believe he committed a crime.
“People need to look into what is being sent before they make assumptions because as far as we know, this guy is not involved in sex trafficking. He’s not doing any of that stuff,” Ofc. Cole said. “People have got to quit assuming and find out the truth.”
Cole added that the rumors have increased since the photo hit Facebook and went viral with claims that the man is hanging around schools in the area. He said this claim was also made up.
Prosser Schools Superintendent Matthew Ellis responded to concerns from parents about the rumors on Thursday:
This week an employee at Housel Middle School made a report to building administration about suspicious activity involving a male driving a silver truck. The teacher worked with building administration to report this individual to building security and local law enforcement. Since that time there has been substantial social-media interest in this individual, and his intentions. Many of the claims being made on social-media have not been substantiated by our local law enforcement. As we seek a resolution to this matter, we would like our parents and guardians to know that many of the claims being made may not be viable. We would also like parents and guardians to know that we will continue to do everything we can to ensure the safety of students.