Robert Wayne Lee, known online as “Boopac Shakur”, was fatally shot at a restaurant in Pontiac, Detroit. Shakur gained a moderate-sized following on Instagram (40k) and Facebook (11k) by exposing alleged child predators to his viewers by baiting and then confronting them.
Initial reports say Lee approached two teenagers, aged 17 and 18, and the confrontation resulted in his death. Allegedly Lee struck one of them prior to receiving the gunshot wound.
Lee would pose as a 15-year-old girl online and attempt to lure out child predators and expose suspected pedophiles. He’d rely on a friend in Philadelphia, who was of age, to pose as his decoy when the target would request to speak over the phone. He would often drive to meet and “catch” his targets. His channel has hundreds of videos of predator-catching related content as well as thousands and thousands of pictures of “suspects” and their chatlogs.
Boopac is one of the many copycat channels that seek to replicate the success of the 2000 hit show, To Catch A Predator. The popular show consisted of luring would-be child predators to a house where they would be first interviewed and then apprehended; it ran for three years, featured hundreds of “guests” and made Chris Hansen a household name and internet meme.
Accounts and content strategies like Boopac’s have been around ever since. Just three of the bigger “predator-catcher” channels on YouTube combine for 3.5m subscribers and 250m total views (@mikefox, @therealskeeterjean and @AnxietyWar).
All the channels that reproduce Chris Hansen-style encounters do so with varying degrees of professionalism and detachment; where a larger channel might seek to remain brand-friendly (as much as possible), smaller channels like Shakur’s rely more on viewer donations than anything else.
Boopac Shakur’s particular brand of predator catching was confrontational, abrasive and often violent. In statements he made during a podcast in February it’s clear that, partly because of his growing local reputation for his actions, Lee identified strongly with the notion that he was a force for good and a defender of the innocent and used it to justify his more direct approach.
In the canon of all to-catch-a-predator style content creators, his particular approach can be best summed up with this ten-second video:
Lee made headlines and spoke to reporters in January of this year after he exposed a sheriff’s deputy who worked in the county jail. At the time he claimed he had conducted 82 “catches” in seven months, his Facebook channel now shows the last video posted as “Catch #132”.
In the same January story, the Oakland County Sheriff’s office was reached for comment. Already well aware of Robert Lee and his activities (he often called them to the scene and would subsequently berate them for their inaction) they shared the following opinion. “When the public tries to catch someone themselves, they can alert the predator too soon, they can spoil the prosecution, and most importantly it can be dangerous.”
Lee claimed he was aware of the danger, already in January he said he had been pepper-sprayed and nearly run over by a car as a target tried to make his escape. Unfortunately, Lee’s confrontations led him to the scene of Friday’s incident where he lost his life. Official reports are still pending.
Lee started his online channels around March of 2022 after he witnessed a popular predator catcher conduct two “catches” right in his hometown area; he is the father of three young children, two girls and a boy, and was certainly moved to action as a result of the video.
Companies like YouTube, Rumble, and Instagram have been proactively working for a few years now to limit promotion and monetization from predator-catching channels; many are deleted entirely.
Lee’s struggles against pedophiles achieved few results, the sheriff’s department confirmed only four of his eighty-two initial catches were ever cited or booked for solicitation of a minor. The ones that “got away” can be found in a video on his channel, a headshot montage labeled “Pedo Diss Track” backed by his own bars.
Boopac’s small success rate mirrors that of the largest predator-catchers, and even Chris Hansen himself; almost none of these sting operations ever result in the targets facing serious crimes or jail time.
There is something to be said for deterrence, however.
The image of Chris Hansen porched on the kitchen top likely dissuaded a significant number of practicing pedophiles in the late 2000s from acting on their urges. Modernity’s off-brand reboots likely have a similar effect, seeing that they are out there hopefully discourages predators and reduces the total number of incidents.
In an ideal scenario, though, that fear of apprehension would be a certainty. If the NSA is already listening to us, why can’t they tune an ear for child predators?
A GoFundMe for his funeral expenses and for his children has raised over $10,000 as of his death.