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Brent Heavner says he was conducting an online sting, posing as a 14-year-old to lure sexual predators. After the predators attempted to meet the fictional teen in person, Heavner would make the arrest. When he attracted a member of his own police force and reported it to his superiors, he says, they took no action. Instead, they fired him.
“He reported that to his superiors, trusting that (the) investigation (would) be transitioned to the State Bureau of Investigations. That didn’t happen,” Michael Elliot, Heavner’s attorney, said in a statement published by local outlet WSOCTV.
They allege that when Heavener found further potential evidence of the unnamed officer’s misconduct “he was again silenced, culminating in his suspension and termination.”
The department claims Heavener was dismissed for violating policy. They say he was caught on a recording disclosing confidential information to others outside the department, though Heavner denies the allegations.
Police also reportedly told the district attorney that Heavner had been caught lying on another occasion, calling his current claims into question. However, Elliot insists this is an attempt to undermine his credibility and deflect from top police brass’ decision to protect the predator cop in question.
According to Elliot’s statement:
“In an effort to distract from their illegal actions, the Lincolnton Police Department now is attempting to discredit Officer Heavner by attacking his credibility, which has never been questioned. This distraction should be seen for what it is: a transparent attempt to justify the termination of a police officer for doing the job he was sworn to do.”
Heavner is a former U.S. Marine who worked for the Lincolnton Police for 25 years. He has investigated online predators for nearly three years and “his work has led to his inclusion in a federal task force and he has been named a ‘Champion of Children,’” according to Elliot. His investigations have yielded 50 arrests since 2015, according to the Lincoln Times-News. However, some cases may be compromised if the court determines he is not a credible witness. The Times-News reports:
“Of the more than 50 accused child predators arrested by Heavner in recent years, many have already been convicted and listed on North Carolina’s sex offender registry. Those individuals could appeal their convictions and possibly be removed from the registry if Heavner’s credibility is tarnished. There are currently nine pending cases, including three that were continued on Monday due to the allegations against the former detective, in which Heavner is listed as a witness, according to media reports.”
This has some residents worried. “It just lowers my faith in the police department,” said Tony Clark, expressing concern that the internal conflict could negate charges against actual predators. Officers are “supposed to be held to a higher standard,” he said.
Lincolnton Police Department Lt. Jason Munday, who is running for sheriff of Lincoln County, where Lincolnton is located, previously chose Heavner to be his chief deputy should he win. He says he stands by Heavner.
“Nothing has changed,” he said. “I’m 100 percent behind Mr. Heavner and I feel that all of the truth will come out and, once it does, the people will understand and see that he didn’t do anything wrong.”
The Lincolnton force also recently came under fire after making a Facebook post about a small weed bust. The department removed its rating system after receiving numerous one-star ratings, though they left the original post intact.
Regarding Heavner, Lincolnton Chief of Police Rodney Jordan declined to comment further on the circumstances regarding his termination, citing “personnel policy.”