KALAMAZOO, Mich. — The Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) said a human trafficking investigation resulted in three people being arrested, including a Western Michigan University public safety officer.
It was the first of its kind in Kalamazoo conducted through KCSO's Human Opression Strike Team or KHOST.
On Friday in a press conference, Sheriff Richard Fuller said the Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Office partnered with the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office for the investigation.
The sheriff’s office said the human trafficking investigation happened on Wednesday, April 13.
He said the operation happened over eight hours, with over 1,000 contacts of people trying to talk and possibly solicit a child for sex.
"The more we can bring this to people’s attention, the fewer victims we will have," said Sheriff Richard Fuller with the Kalamazoo County Sheriff's Office.
One of those three arrested was Abraham Hohnke, a 49-year-old Portage man who worked as a police officer at WMU.
Hohnke is facing two charges, including accosting a child for immoral purposes and communicating with another using the internet on a computer to commit a crime.
Aaron Bower-Guimond, a 27-year-old who works for Bronson Healthcare Systems, and Nathan Ruzick, a 26-year-old truck driver from Mattawan, were also arrested for accosting a child for immoral purposes.
"They started conversation online in chatrooms with someone, a police officer posing as a minor child. The chat turned to sex talk in different acts. Arrangements were made to meet at a local motel. The subjects when they arrived were met there not by a minor child opening the door but by sheriff’s deputies," said Sheriff Fuller.
The three were arrested and have been arraigned.
WMU spokesperson Paula Davis released the following statement to FOX 17:
“As soon as WMU police became aware of his arrest, the individual was suspended without pay and, in accordance with provisions of the WMU Police Officers Collective Bargaining Agreement, given notice of intent to terminate pending review. His police powers and permission to be on campus were also immediately revoked. The employee opted to resign this afternoon, effective immediately.”
WMU's president sent a letter out to the campus saying Hohnke resigned on Friday after being suspended without pay by the university. The university says Hohnke was also given notice of intent to terminate pending review and his permission to be on campus was revoked.
Here's the full letter from WMU President Edward Montgomery:
"Today I write regarding a disturbing and serious matter so that you can be aware of this development and the University’s unequivocal response.
A WMU police officer was arraigned this afternoon on two serious charges, one count of accosting for immoral purposes a minor he believed to be 15 years old and one count of using a computer to commit a crime. No WMU student or any other member of the University community is involved.
As soon as WMU police became aware of his arrest, the individual was suspended without pay and, in accordance with provisions of the WMU Police Officers Collective Bargaining Agreement, given notice of intent to terminate pending review. His police powers and permission to be on campus were also immediately revoked. The employee opted to resign this afternoon, effective immediately.
While this incident did not occur on campus or in the course of the employee’s duties, I share these developments for the sake of transparency and in line with how seriously we take this matter. We are fully cooperating with authorities to aid their investigation as needed.
The behavior alleged in the charges is abhorrent and completely counter to the University’s values. The WMU police department is a fully accredited sworn force that is committed to community policing and the safety of our community. We will simply not tolerate behavior that undermines the faith and confidence in our officers who dedicate themselves to our safety daily."
Sheriff Fuller adding human trafficking is a serious problem and encourages parents to be aware with what their children are doing.
"Make sure that if they have the access that so many people do to these phones, computers, electronic devices that you’re part of their life, and that you’re making sure you’re doing what you can recognizing that there is so much activity on phones, on computers. Be engaged that is our best information," said Sheriff Fuller.
Kalamazoo County was the 39th in the state to use the program. Sheriff Fuller said they will continue to use it for operations like this one.
"To anyone looking to have sex with a child in Kalamazoo County, we are watching for you, we are looking for you and you will go to jail," said Sheriff Fuller.
Sheriff Fuller said Michigan is listed among the top ten states for human trafficking.
For resources, you can visit the National Human Trafficking Hotline's website or call them at 1-(888) 373-7888.
If you're in Kalamazoo County, you can call the YWCA at (269) 385-3587.
**This story is developing and will be updated as new details come in.