NASHVILLE,Tenn. (WKRN) – A college football player, a truck driver, a student and a state IT specialist are also among 41 arrested in a three-day operation combating sex and human trafficking in Nashville.
The operation, dubbed “Operation Someone Like Me,” was led by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation with help from other law enforcement agencies.
Over three days, undercover agents posted ads on Backpage.com. A total of 485 men responded to those ads, some of which were undercover agents posing as a juvenile girl.
Of the 41 arrested, 34 were men who authorities said were responding to ads in an effort to buy sex from a minor. Six women and one juvenile were also charged.
David Shepard, a science teacher at Hunters Lane High School, was one of the men accused of patronizing prostitution. He has since been placed on administrative leave. Metro Schools spokesman Joe Bass is expected to release a statement later Friday.
A student at Vanderbilt University, Rashad Canty, was also arrested in the case. School officials said he also played football for the school last season but is no longer a member of the team.
“The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation today announced that it has arrested 41 people, including Gary Rashad Canty, a Vanderbilt student, as part of a human trafficking investigation. The crime with which Mr. Canty has been charged is very serious. If TBI asks for our cooperation, we will of course provide it,” Vanderbilt University said in a statement.
A college football player, a truck driver, a student and a state IT specialist are also among those arrested. It’s unclear at this time which of those arrested they are.
The Davidson County District Attorney’s office will review each case to determine if additional charges are necessary. The undercover operation also helped identify potential victims of trafficking.
“We’re not going to arrest our way out of this problem,” TBI Director Mark Gwyn said. “This is demand-driven. These men are paying for sex with children in our state are only continuing to victimize girls and women. It’s wrong, it’s illegal and we will pursue these operations in small towns and big cities for as long as it takes.”
Senator Bill Ketron also took the podium with emotionally charged words, saying he’s glad to have helped spearhead the necessary legislation to give the TBI the resources they needed to begin making arrests and saving victims.
“Human trafficking his happening right her in our state,” he said, before noting he was about to go off script.
“Let me send a message to all you men who enjoy this type of lifestyle. Go home and do yourself, okay? Quit ruining the lives of our young women and young girls in this state. Otherwise, we’re coming after you. I will do everything within my power to muster our resources as a state to help [the TBI] take you down and ruin your life,” the senator continued.