WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Winston-Salem police said an incident involving a group called Dads Against Predators - or D.A.P. - forced an evacuation at the Target on Hanes Mall Boulevard last Tuesday.
Detectives said three men with D.A.P., as they're known on social media, "lured" a 25-year-old man to Target through the social media app Meet Up.
Once the man was in the store, police said the dad group confronted him, wanting to know why he was there.
Police said one of the D.A.P. members was recording the interaction on his cell phone. Police said a fight broke out and the man who was "lured" there took out a handgun and fired a round which struck a D.A.P. member in the leg.
Investigators said the dad group took the man's gun from him and left the Target in a car with Ohio tags.
The man who'd been beaten by the group went to a Forsyth County hospital for his injuries.
Police didn't find the gun until the next morning. It was three miles from the Target store, on Sunderland Road.
Winston-Salem police were later alerted by Ohio law enforcement that one of the D.A.P. men showed up at a hospital in Ohio for injuries. Police said he was treated and released for minor injuries that same day.
Winston-Salem Police Chief Catrina Thompson discussed the dangers of these "vigilante groups" and how they can hurt an investigation more than help.
"Not only do they not have the training and experience of a law enforcement officer, typically their methods of investigation and evidence do not meet the requirement for successful prosecution of these cases. In fact, sometimes their actions in initial investigations may harm a case more than it helps it," Chief Thompson said in a briefing last week - a day after the Target incident.
Thompson said citizens who try to take the law into their own hands aren't just putting themselves in danger, but the public as well.
"We are also extremely concerned for the safety of the members of the citizens' groups and the community in general because the tendency of these groups is to lure a potential suspect to a public place to confront them. These confrontations are likely to create disturbances and certainly have the potential for violence," she said.
Chief Thompson also explained how vigilante groups like D.A.P. operate.
"The groups create posts on various social media apps impersonating a juvenile and engages potential suspects in conversation. If the conversation becomes sexually explicit, the members then arrange to meet the suspect," she said.
Winston-Salem police said they are not actively looking for the three D.A.P. men involved in the incident. Police said their Gun Crime Reduction Unit is currently investigating what happened.
Last week, WFMY News 2's Jenna Kurzyna spoke with the man who'd been beaten inside the store. He did not want to go on camera, but his injuries were visible. The man had cuts on his face, swelling, and a black eye. He said he did not know the suspects.
Target released the following statement last week:
"On Tuesday evening, there was an altercation between three people inside our Hanes Mall store, during which a weapon was fired, though no one was struck. Our team immediately evacuated the store and the Winston-Salem Police Department quickly responded. The store has since reopened and we're assisting law enforcement with their investigation. At this time, we'll refer additional questions to police."
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