Sheriff arrests 17 alleged child predators, including firefighter, in ongoing sting. What happened is horrifying (op-ed).

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FLINT, MI – Seventeen men, including a firefighter, alleged to have engaged in sexual activity with underage children online, have been arrested as part of “Operation Roll Tide and Covenant Juvenile Rescue.”

 

Genesee County Sheriff Chris Swanson said that the rescue operation on Aug. 15 included a search for 27 kids who had “gone off the grid.”

They learned this information from schools, hospitals, probate courts, and human service agencies, including child welfare and the foster care system.

The rescue mission was led by the Genesee Human Oppression Strike Team, also known as GHOST. This was a partnership between many township and city police departments, as well as state police, the FBI, and a training group composed of former Navy SEALs.

Over the course of five months, Swanson said the GHOST team set up six stings. In each sting, law enforcement agents posed as 13-, 14- and 15-year-old children on social media sites.

People who arrived at the sting locations came from across Genesee County. They apparently expected to be able to assault the children. Instead, they were arrested and will be prosecuted.

Seven four-person teams composed of police officers and social workers conducted a search from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Aug. 15. The search turned up seven of those missing children, aged 17 and under.

One 16-year-old girl was found locked in a barn in Montrose. Swanson said:

“The fear in her eyes was real.” 

It was the county’s third such rescue operation. The GHOST team also conducted rescue sweeps in 2018 and 2019.

When asked about those arrested, Swanson answered:

“These are people from all walks of life.”

Among those arrested are:

  • John Linsner, 43, of Grand Blanc
  • Pong Lor, 34, of Shelby Township
  • Ronald Brooks, 26, of Flint
  • Thomas Trinklein, 34, of Saginaw
  • Michael Beaudoin, 38, of Howell
  • Erik Middlewood, 30, of Otisville
  • Lonnie Anderson-Hendrick, 38, of Lapeer

Among the men arrested was a Burton firefighter, Matthew J. Hyde, 40. Hyde is a former police officer with several agencies in Genesee County. He is charged with child sexually abusive activity, accosting a child for immoral purposes, and using a computer to commit a crime. 

Regarding Hyde, Swanson said:

“He had a 15-minute phone call with one of our decoys.

“In his truck when he was arrested, he had two loaded firearms, a police ID, a police badge of which he was not associated with.”

Burton Mayor Duane Haskens, a former Genesee Sheriff’s Office employee, said:

“Pinning the badge on your chest right above your heart is a thing most of us hold true as honor and integrity and to protect and save and work for people. When you have somebody that has that badge and they go the other way and they do something derogatory, it then instills the distrust in the public.”

Public trust is vital to the men and women in blue. They don’t want bad apples among them. Haskins assured the public that Hyde is no longer employed with the county.

Swanson said:

“These folks are among us and I want them to know there’s a watchdog out there.” 

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Hyde’s attorney, Frank Manley, who has handled several GHOST team cases, told Roberto Acosta from MLive:

“Nobody is for the exploitation of minors.”

Manley added:

“Social media clouds people’s judgment because it makes them feel invisible, as opposed to being face-to-face with someone.

“Human frailty cuts across all socioeconomic lines. Every case is vastly different and the defenses are factually-based, not career-based.”

Courtesy of Genesee County Sheriff's office FB page
Courtesy of Genesee County Sheriff’s office FB page

Although that may be true, the fact remains that it still reportedly happened, and embarrassed the good firefighters of the Burton Fire Department. Their badges are now tainted by the actions of one bad guy.

Police officers and firefighters take their job seriously and protect the honor of their jobs with ferocity. They created disciplinary actions to police themselves to help keep people like Hyde out of their departments. Hyde’s arrest has to come as a shock to colleagues who worked with him.

However, even though Hyde’s now-former colleagues may have had a professional relationship with him, and may even be his friend, doesn’t matter when it comes to the badge.

The officers should be applauded for their dedication to the law and to the community by arresting someone they know and prosecuting him to the fullest extent of the law.

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