KUSA - Several police agencies believe Zachary Myers is a predator who asked underage girls to send him lewd photos.
In some cases, the 22-year-old blackmailed them to take and send the pictures, and threatened to kill himself if they didn’t. All the communication took place via text or various social media sites.
According to court records from Jefferson, Weld and Denver counties, where Myers is charged, he allegedly went further than collecting half naked photos of teen girls. The 22-year-old actually met up with some of his victims, sexually assaulted them or forced them to perform sex acts.
Court records say Myers met girls between 13 and 16 years old through social media sites. He groomed them to make them feel he loved them and then asked for nude photos. If they refused, he would threaten suicide. Police said Myers kept a stock photo on his phone of an arm with cuts on it, as well as a photo of a shotgun in his mouth.
“Parents it’s very important for them to monitor what they’re children are doing, what apps are they downloading,” said Douglas County Deputy Jay Martin, who teaches the sheriff’s office Y.E.S.S. program. Y.E.S.S. stands for Youth Education and Safety in Schools.
“If you ask any kid how many of you have somebody following you, many of them have people following them they don’t even know, we talk about how silly that would be in person,” Martin said.
9NEWS is not pointing fingers at the victims or their parents in Myers’ cases. 9NEWS is using this story to remind people what to do when it comes to their kids and social media use. And Martin is an expert.
“What we want them [kids] to think of themselves on social media as – as a business,” he said. “It’s their business and they have competitors and their competitors are going to make them look foolish, make them maybe post something foolish or stand out so they go viral. We talk about kids going viral not necessarily a good thing.”
An arrest affidavit from Myers’ Weld County case says a 14-year-old girl told investigators Myers sexually assaulted her sometime before Oct. 29, 2015. The victim told an Evan Police detective she met Myers on social media and later agreed to meet with him in person. Before their meeting, Myers allegedly sent a picture of his privates to her via Snapchat.
Over the course of their investigation, Evans Police searched Myers’ phone and found 20 inappropriate photographs and three videos of underage girls.
That’s how detectives found Myers’ alleged Denver victim.
According to court records filed in Denver, Myers met the victim on a website called “KIK”. He told her he was 18 or 19. She was 14 at the time. The teenage girl told police she and Myers exchanged lewd photos.
The victim told Denver police in the fall of 2015 she “was going through some family issues,” and decided to meet Myers at school. Myers forced her to have oral sex while in his car.
The search of Myers’ phone by Evans police also revealed an underage victim in Lakewood. The victim told forensic investigators she met Myers in September 2015 on KIK, a messaging app that allows users to send random messages. The victim told police she was 14 when Myers started sending her sexual messages.
The girl told investigators Myers found her cell number on her Facebook page that was open for public view. The victim told police Myers showed up at her house one day, followed her into an empty park and forced her to have oral sex. At one point she broke free and ran away.
Between Denver, Weld and Jefferson counties, Myers is charged with multiple felonies, including sexual assault on a child, sex assault, internet exploitation of a child, kidnapping and false imprisonment.
Martin said the big point he teaches is being emotionally intelligent on social media. He said it’s human nature to be liked and loved, people can take advantage of that.
“They say 70 percent of kids lack emotional intelligence,” Martin said. “When they’re talking on the phone, they’re not talking to people. It creates this lack of emotional intelligence. You need to have more face to face time, that’s how you're going to be able to perceive, manage and understand and use your emotions, but actually looking and talking to people, not devices.”
Martin said parents need to surprise check their kids’ devices all the time and take them away at night.
Police say Myers preyed on his victims' vulnerabilities and there could be more -- silent, or embarrassed -- or worried they won't be believed.
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