By STEVEN MURREY
On Sunday evening, Elwood police arrested a Fairmount man on preliminary charges of child solicitation and dissemination of matter harmful to minors; the Madison County Prosecutor’s Office has 72-hours to file criminal charges in the case.
Gordon L. Cook, 50, was taken into custody outside of Needler’s Market after being confronted by Predator Catchers of Indianapolis (PCI).
An Avon resident who does not wish to be publicly identified, founded the organization about seven months ago. Citing the viral “Save the Children” campaign, he said the group’s mission is to combat a rise in “predatory behavior.” Since late December, at least two were arrested in Alexandria and one in Elwood because of PCI’s work.
PCI live-streamed the encounter on their Facebook pages, including the spinoff chapter out of Muncie, PCM. The videos of the Elwood encounter have a combined view count of 51,200.
“I’m just here to say hi,” Cook told members of PCI and PCM when confronted on the live-streams.
“That’s a 14-year-old girl you were talking to,” the live-streamer said as Cook exited the store with the decoy. “What the hell is going on in your head, bro? What were you here to do?”
Cook initially stated he only planned to “hang out” with the decoy, and one group member responded by saying, “that’s not what the chats say.”
“I was wrong,” Cook said twice.
The organization’s founder later told the Call-Leader that Cook had chatted with the decoy since December 1.
“Why’s it worth the risk,” one group member is heard asking. Cook softly responded, “it’s not… it’s not…”
Elwood police arrived on the scene during the live-stream after a Needler’s employee called dispatch. Officers escorted Cook to the station, where he consented to an interview and arrest.
Cook told police he “messed up” and admitted he sent three nude photos, which he said was inappropriate and that he was regretful, a probable cause affidavit shows. In at least one message, Cook admitted to knowing the girl was 14.
The founder said Tuesday afternoon that Cook also sent inappropriate videos. He added that the group’s work has exposed 49 individuals, and has led to five arrests.
The Madison County Jail’s inmate website shows that Cook posted bond approximately 23 hours after his arrest; a decision on formal charges is expected from the prosecutor’s office by Thursday.
The preliminary charges mentioned above are level 4 and level 6 felonies.