A warning issued by the RCMP about a local man was based on an untrue allegation, the man says, and he has suffered the consequences of that, losing his job and having his Facebook account inundated with vicious comments.
The Campbell River RCMP sent a warning to School District 72 that they had received multiple complaints about a man befriending young girls while attending local middle schools in an effort to promote his music.
The report was sent April 28 by Const. Christopher Foster, Campbell River RCMP School Liaison Officer, a copy of which the Mirror obtained and published in a story on our website on May 4.
The RCMP’s warning talked about Phil Rudan befriending 11 and 12-year-old girls by giving them t-shirts and inviting them to music shows “under the guise” of being a rock/rap singer. Rudan posted photos of the girls with the t-shirts on Facebook but had taken them down due to pressure from family and parents.
Const. Foster’s warning said Rudan was also texting some girls for the purposes of meeting them in person and Rudan is also suspected of purchasing alcohol for some of these same girls.
“Please be on the lookout for Rudan and inform all of your staff,” Foster said. “He may wait at the edge of the school property while waiting for the girl(s) to meet him.”
The warning said Rudan will be served a trespass notice for all SD72 properties and urged school district officials to call the RCMP if they observed him near a school.
But Rudan says it is all a misunderstanding and was based on untrue allegations. He did talk to girls – none as young as 11 or 12 – but it was to promote his music and him as a musician.
He said nobody from the RCMP talked to him about his behaviour nor told him to stop or that he was under investigation.
“This came as news to me, per se,” Rudan said in an interview with the Mirror. “Nobody had spoken to me (saying) you shouldn’t be on school grounds because, of course, I actually wasn’t on school grounds. So, I wasn’t on school grounds and I wasn’t selling t-shirts to 12-year-olds. Which, even if I had been doing would have been completely legal since the t-shirts are appropriate. Right? So I was never selling any t-shirts on school grounds and obviously, I have common sense, like I know where you’re allowed to sell things and where you’re not and obviously in a lot of public places you’re not allowed to sell things without a permit. So, obviously, I wouldn’t be allowed to do that.”
The only time police talked to him, he says, was after the article got posted on campbellrivermirror.com. The article was taken down by the Mirror within 24 hours after indications came to light that Rudan’s behaviour may be being misinterpreted. The information was judged to be important enough to report given that it came from the Campbell River RCMP and involved the safety of children at local schools. Warnings of this nature are always a sensitive matter but the local media has a role to play in the safety of the community. Reporting the warning is weighed with the consequences of not warning the community in mind. If a child had been harmed would this newspaper staff have felt better that it had kept the information quiet? Warnings from an authority like the RCMP carry a lot of weight.
When police did talk to Rudan they told him that the email was not supposed to have been made public. But it was circulated around school district staff.
Rudan said there wasn’t an investigation, only some allegations “probably spread by somebody who didn’t really like me or what I was doing.”
Rudan speculated that the person spreading the allegations may not have realized what the consequences of their actions might have been.
“When they say things aren’t true it can really cause a chain reaction,” Rudan said.
The reaction to Rudan’s story was immediate and strong. His Facebook account was included in the article and it led to some serious cyber-bullying.
“It put me through a lot,” Rudan said.
“A lot of messages,” he said. “Hundreds of messages; messages, like threats.”
The messages came from within the community and around Vancouver Island.
“Some people shared the article a lot and sent me a lot of messages and commented on all of my posts that I had, saying things about me like I was a pedophile and all kinds of things and that I should die and just really sending me rude messages.”
It was hard to ignore when everyone was talking about it, Rudan said.
But Rudan said he was not talking to 11 and 12-year-olds, that the girls he was talking to were older and that they were buying his t-shirts which he had made up to promote himself as a musician. He was not trying to befriend anyone, they were customers.
The picture of a girl with a t-shirt that went up on his Facebook site was taken down shortly afterwards. Rudan said the picture was posted by a customer and that he can’t control that and at the time it looked like an opportunity for promotion. Many other businesses and artists post pictures of people who buy their merchandise because it gives them credibility.
“I did make sure the photo got removed because I didn’t want anything like this.”
Rudan insists his actions were nothing but appropriate. The accusations about him were allegations perpetrated by someone.
“They have never been true and never will be,” he said.
After the story came out, the police advised him to “lay low” and that he should be careful when he went out.
He said he went through a lot of difficulty after the article got shared on social media. He suffered from depression and had thoughts of suicide but talked to a crisis nurse which helped him through that period. He said the police were also helpful.
He avoided social media after that.
“Because I knew it wasn’t true. There’s no point in me reading anything,” he said.
The first days were “really rough,” Rudan said.
When asked why he thought the police came up with this warning in the first place, Rudan said he didn’t know.
“Somebody who didn’t like me, probably, just told them something that wasn’t true but sounded true. And of course they want to keep kids safe. So it makes sense that they would before even investigating anything. They would just want to make sure the schools are prepared to deal with anything. It’s really important to keep kids safe. So, they were probably just worried what if this was true.”
Although, Rudan understands the RCMP’s position in the situation, “They still shouldn’t have sent the email without any proof. They still really did wrong. Just like you guys (the paper). They shouldn’t have sent that email without proof. They should have been more careful who they were sending it to and they shouldn’t have used the name without proof. They really shouldn’t have used a name. Like the email might have been appropriate to send, precautionary, but using a name when there’s no evidence and with the possibility of information leaking is never a good idea. They should never do that again with anybody.”
Rudan said he was the only one who was put in harm’s way in this whole situation.
For now, Rudan will try to put this behind him and continue to pursue his dream of a music career.
“Music is my everything,” he said.
The RCMP have not responded to written questions as of the
Mirror’s press time.