Feds Investigating Spate of Violent Home Invasions Using Social Media to Target Victims
Violent criminals are using social media hookups to target victims in North Texas.
Illustration by 355
The beating lasted for hours, but Danny Cannon couldn’t see who was doing it. The three masked men placed duct tape over his eyes as they rummaged through his house, searching for cash and seeking bank account information. They used a handgun to threaten and pistol whip him.
Cannon, who’s in his early 50s, had simply wanted to hook up with someone. He used Grindr, the self-proclaimed largest gay social networking app in the world to find a partner. Grindr has more than two million daily active users.
Instead he found himself bound, beaten and degraded by the three masked men until the early morning hours in a small town in Denton County. He suffered severe head trauma, according to reports.
It seems he’s not the only victim. Law enforcement agencies in Plano and McKinney report similar incidents where a group of men had used social media apps to find their victims and attempt to steal bank account information and cash. Frisco may have had similar incidents, too.
Now the Department of Justice and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are involved, raising the conjecture that the same group may be responsible.
Aubrey police indicated in a press release that two suspects were arrested in a similar attack in a “neighboring county.” However, the Department of Justice has taken over all media requests and are no longer releasing information related to the case.
Davilyn Walston, spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office Eastern District, declined to comment. “We can’t comment on an ongoing investigation,” Walston says. “Nothing.”
Frisco Police Spokesperson Ryan Chandler says he’s been asked to route all questions to the feds. “I wish I could say more,” he says.
In Plano, David Tilley, the spokesperson for Plano police, says they are working with the ATF because firearms were stolen from one of their two incidents. He says he’s heard some suspects were being held in relation to a similar offense in another city, but they’re still working with those other agencies to see if their two incidents are connected.
Tilley also says masked men were involved in their incidents, and they believed the victims were targeted using a social media platform. “There are some discrepancies on which platform was being used, though,” he says. “That is something still being looked into.”
McKinney Police Department spokesperson Ana Shelley says they were able to determine that their similar incident wasn’t related to the suspects in Cannon’s home invasion in Aubrey.
Aubrey Police Lt. Bill Townsend says he doesn’t have any more information to share since the Department of Justice and the ATF are now handling the case. “I literally have nothing,” he says. “To the best of my knowledge, they’re handling it and haven’t let us know a whole lot.”
Townsend painted a vivid picture when he first spoke with the Denton Record-Chronicle a few days after the home invasion occurred on Feb. 7, but declined to comment further on the case when the Observer reached him by phone.
The three masked men had been using a fake account when they connected with Cannon on Grindr. It’s unclear if they made the initial contact, if Cannon contacted them and if only one or all three masked individuals acted as admins of the account. What is clear: They set up a date.
It was about 9 p.m. on a Tuesday night when most of Aubrey is settling down for their night when the three masked men showed up at Cannon’s home and forced their way inside. When they left at around 5 a.m., they stole his white 2013 Chevy Equinox. The masked men made a stop at an ATM machine in Aubrey before heading over to Wal-Mart in Little Elm, Townsend said.
Cannon untied himself, pulled the duct tape off his eyes and rushed over to his neighbor’s house. The neighbor, Michael Schall, was watching TV when he told the Record-Chronicle he spotted Cannon in a jockstrap crossing his yard to go to their neighbor’s house to call police. “It’s scary that it happened right next door,” Schall says.