Craigslist vigilante accused of killing an innocent man

Craigslist vigilante accused of killing an innocent man
William Knight

The media loves to publish stories about people who found their stolen possessions on craigslist and confronted the person who stole them. I always thought that this was irresponsible of the media as I knew it would eventually lead to something like this.

63-year-old William Knight, of Akron, Ohio, is said to have found his son-in-law’s stolen dirt bike, worth $4000, being sold on craigslist. The bike had been stolen a year earlier. Knight and his family reported the ad to police who said they would go with Knight to approach the seller. Police then had to respond to another call, but Knight and his family went anyway.

Knight is said to have shot and killed 24-year-old Keith Johnson who was selling the bike. Knight claims the shooting was in self-defense, but reports make it sound like that Johnson was fleeing the scene rather than attacking Knight.

“I had to,” Knight said, alleging that Johnson had tried to flee and that he could have hurt his family members.

Knight told dispatchers his son-in-law tried to hold on to the bike to prevent Johnson from riding away. He said he fired his gun to protect his family and himself, and that he thought he hit Johnson in the chest.

Johnson was not the man who had stolen the bike. Relatives say that Johnson had bought the bike from someone else last year. Knight has only been charged with involuntary manslaughter which has set off tensions in Akron since Knight is white and Johnson is black. While I can’t say that the charges are based on race, I will say I think the charge of involuntary manslaughter is not enough and Knight should be charged with second-degree murder.

If you find something of yours that has been stolen appearing on a site like craigslist, do not approach the seller on your own. Call the police and wait for them to go with you. Taking the law into your own hands could result in lethal consequences, for you or any one else involved.
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Two suspects arrested in LetGo murder of Georgia man

Two suspects arrested in LetGo murder of Georgia man
Cicero Smith

I originally posted about the murder of 51-year-old Sam Norman here. Mr. Norman was shot and killed in DeKalb County, Georgia, earlier this month after going to meet someone he thought was selling a drone on the mobile marketplace app LetGo.

Yesterday, DeKalb County police announced that they had made an arrest but did not release any information about it. Today, it was announced that two suspects have been arrested for Mr. Norman’s murder. The suspects are 18-year-old Cicero Smith and an unnamed 15-year-old juvenile. Investigators were able to subpoena the user information from LetGo which led them to Smith. A search of Smith’s home is said to have turned up drone parts that were used in the ad. Smith is also believed to have shot Mr. Norman in the chest. Mr. Norman was said to have given pursuit in his vehicle before succumbing to his injuries. No word yet on if the juvenile will be charged as an adult.

As free apps like these become more prolific, and as more people ignore the safety issues, we will only see more bloodshed. Much like craigslist, since the barrier of entry to these apps is nil, it’s an easy allure for criminals looking to make a quick buck through robbery. However, hopefully the fact that LetGo assisted police in finding the suspect will let criminals know that they can be found.

Ga. father killed after going to meet a seller from LetGo

Ga. father killed after going to meet a seller from LetGo

51-year-old Sam Norman was shot to death last week in DeKalb County, Georgia, after planning to meet someone who claimed to be selling a drone on the LetGo app. If you haven’t seen their commercials, LetGo is a craigslist competitor in app form. Mr. Norman went to meet someone who was purportedly selling a drone, instead Mr. Norman was found in his truck having been shot to death.

Police are still searching for Mr. Norman’s killer and has been described by a witness as a man wearing a white T-shirt and a black hat. Investigators are combing LetGo for any possible leads.

Just because apps like LetGo and 5miles look slick and professional, and aren’t craigslist, doesn’t mean that the old rules don’t apply anymore. Meet during the day somewhere that is as public as possible, preferably at your local police station. Once some new facet of technology comes along, it doesn’t take very long for criminals to try to take advantage of it. Unfortunately, that sometimes can cost someone their life.

UPDATE 3/13/2017: An arrest has been made in Mr. Norman’s murder, however DeKalb County police have not released the alleged suspect’s name.

Tampa craigslist killing leaves father dead, two arrested

Williams and Johnson

44-year-old James Beck, of Tampa, Florida, was killed this past Tuesday after trying to sell his 16-year-old son’s dirt bike on craigslist. Beck and his son met a pair of individuals when one of them opened fire on Beck, striking him twice in the neck. The two suspects then ran off with the dirt bike. Beck unfortunately died on the scene from his injuries right in front of his son.

Police have arrested 16-year-old Ramontrae Williams and 17-year-old Dontae Johnson, and charged them with first-degree felony murder and robbery.

A GoFundMe has been set up by Beck’s family in order to pay for funeral and other expenses.

Sadly, I don’t have much else to add here. Craigslist should be considered too dangerous for anyone to use anymore. While you, the reader, may have found the perfect deal on craigslist, and have never had a problem, the number of people killed through craigslist is now in the triple digits. Craigslist has become nothing more than a dangerous game of Russian Roulette, and too many people are becoming victims to a deadly game that they don’t even realize they’re playing.

UPDATE 2/27/2017: Last week a grand jury indicted both teens, and they will be tried as adults.

UPDATE 3/2/2017: Williams has been denied bond.

Texas mother murdered after using classifieds app, even after doing all the right things

Texas mother murdered after using classifieds app, even after doing all the right things
April Vancleave

33-year-old April Vancleave of Arlington, Texas, was shot and killed near her home after trying to sell some items on a craigslist-like app. April was trying to sell some jewelry through an app called 5miles, in order to make some money so she could buy a Christmas present for her 6-year-old daughter. Ms. Vancleave even did all the right things that one should do when selling an item online through a classifieds app or site.

When she went to meet the buyer in public no one showed up to meet with her, so her husband dropped her off at home and he returned to work. Police say that two men followed her to her apartment complex, robbed her, and shot her. The suspects are still at large and a $10,000 reward is being issued for information leading to their capture.

Here is surveillance video from the Arlington Police.

Anyone who recognizes the men seen in the video or has information about the incident that left Vancleave dead is asked to contact Arlington police at 817-459-5735.

Anonymous tips can also be made by calling Crime Stoppers at 817-469-8477.

April’s family has also set up a GoFundMe page to help pay for her funeral expenses.

This is not an indictment against 5miles. It seems like a decent app with user profiles, which is more than craigslist can say however, as this story shows, you can take all the necessary precautions when dealing with online classifieds and still risk being the victim of a crime. While this story is a rare case, it still speaks volumes as to the dangers adherent when dealing with strangers and money online.

I’ll post more details as they become available and as time allows.

(Thanks to Lady Gray for the editorial assist.)

UPDATE 2/13/2017: 33-year-old Mario Hernan Lopez Gamez has been arrested in April Vancleave’s death. The second suspect is still at large.

Police were able to identify Gamez after another victim said that he had robbed her through another app called OfferUp. Gamez is looking at capital murder charges.

Ore. suspect wanted to kidnap and kill Backpage prostitute

Ore. suspect wanted to kidnap and kill Backpage prostitute

34-year-old Jamin L. Harris of Oregon, was arrested yesterday in Richland, Washington, for allegedly firing off a rifle round in a local motel. The reason Harris fired off the shot was to allegedly intimidate the 26-year-old prostitute he got from Backpage into going to the Bend, Oregon area with him. Harris is said to have gotten into a dispute with the victim over payment, but was intent on kidnapping the woman then killing her once they got near Bend. He sounds like either a serial killer in the making, or a serial killer who’s been lucky up until now.

Those who are proponents of prostitution like to claim that websites like Backpage make it safer for women to engage in sex work. My opinion is that Backpage has the opposite effect. It literally delivers the victim for any potential predator or killer right to their door. If anything Backpage just makes it easier for these cretins to find victims.

Georgia murder linked to craigslist

Georgia murder linked to craigslist

38-year-old Jamal Hodge of Union City, Georgia, was shot and killed in the nearby city of College Park on November 5th. Police are now saying that his death may have had something to do with an item that he was selling on craigslist. It’s currently unknown what Mr. Hodge was trying to sell, but whatever it was, it seemed important enough for someone to kill for it. A witness has said that two men walked over to Mr. Hodge’s truck and shot him dead. According to the unofficial Craigslist Killing blog, this would make Mr. Hodge victim #106, if this is indeed a craigslist killing.

One thing that struck me about this story was that the Fox 5 Atlanta article mentioned that Mr. Hodge was not only a good man by all accounts, but that he was a martial arts expert as well. When I briefly trained in the martial arts, I saw some masters of it do some amazing things. Unfortunately, even that skill can’t always protect you. With craigslist being as dangerous as it already is, I wouldn’t want my worst enemy using it.

My thoughts, prayers and condolences go out to Mr. Hodge’s family and community that he seemed to be an integral part of.

Georgia murder linked to craigslist
Jamal Hodge

The suspects are still at large.

Atlanta Crime Stoppers is offering a reward of up to $2,000 for information leading to an arrest in the case.

The investigation is ongoing. If you have any information about this case, please call police at 404-577-TIPS (8477)

Craigslist killing in SC leaves one dead, three arrested

Craigslist killing in SC leaves one dead, three arrested

On October 10th, 22-year-old Branden Boyd was shot and killed during a craigslist transaction involving a cell phone in Calhoun County, South Carolina. Charged with his murder are brothers Chavasse Michael Smith, 19, and Hasani Dion Smith, 17, and 20-year-old Darian Washington.

During the transaction a shootout began between the Smith Brothers and Boyd. Washington has been charged with being an accessory after the fact.

Police say that the Smith Brothers contacted Boyd, who was selling the phone on craigslist, and planned to rob him.

Michigan craigslist killing leaves father of two dead

Michigan craigslist killing leaves father of two dead

49-year-old Todd Terry, of Farmington Hills, Michigan, was recently shot and killed after responding to a craigslist ad in nearby Inkster. The article and corresponding video doesn’t specify what the ad was for, but since the article makes reference to the fact that Mr. Terry liked to restore bicycles and mopeds It was more than likely for one of those. Tragically there was no moped or bike to be bought as Mr. Terry’s family have indicated that he was killed just for the money he was carrying.

A suspect by the name of Tremayne Alexander has been charged with Mr. Terry’s murder and is allegedly responsible for two other similar crimes in the area.

Todd Terry’s widow is urging others to forgo craigslist…

“They’re creating something that’s not in existence for you to come and bring what? $100? $50? With the plans to kill you. So I tell people to run from it. Don’t even look at it. Don’t even open it up. I wish Craigslist was shut down,” Yvette Terry said.

As I’ve said in the past, due to craigslist’s low threshold of entry, anyone can post an ad saying just about anything they want. This lack of oversight by craigslist has not only led to numerous scams and robberies, but has also led to a multitude of rapes and murders. Craigslist has become nothing but a trap, luring in an overabundance of victims.

Mr. Terry also left behind two sons ages 16 and 13, and the family has set up a GoFundMe account. By all accounts Mr. Terry was a great man. Please donate if you can.

UPDATE 4/1/2017: Alexander was sentenced to 30 to 60 years after pleading guilty to second-degree murder.

Suspect in father’s KC craigslist killing captured

Suspect in KC father's craigslist killing captured
Fazon K. Swinton

I originally posted about the murder of 39-year-old father Jake Brantner here. Brantner was shot and killed in Kansas City while trying to sell a gun to a buyer from craigslist. His alleged killer was captured earlier this month and is said to be 18-year-old Fazon K. Swinton.

Swinton allegedly grabbed the gun without paying and ran off when both men produced guns and fired at each other. Brantner was gunned down in front of his 10-year-old daughter while Swinton later took himself to the hospital after being struck by a bullet from Brantner’s gun.

As I mentioned before, craigslist forbids firearms to be sold on their site but without any kind of moderation their ban doesn’t really mean a whole lot.