ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. -- Fifteen men police say were out to harm local children are now behind bars. A St. Johns County school bus driver, a Mayport Navy man, a former sailor at NAS JAX, and a police officer in training were all caught allegedly soliciting sex from people they thought were children. Neighbors are shocked.
Undercover detectives posed online as children to lure the suspects to an undercover home in St. Johns County. That's where the arrests were made.
"I'd rather have them come meet us than meet with a child somewhere else and have them become a real victim," said Undersheriff Joel Bolante with the St. John County Sheriff's Office. "It's happening and I'd rather it be us."
Frank Pearce lives next door to retired NAS JAX sailor, now suspect, John Houston Oyler of St. Augustine. He said he's shared backyard BBQs with Oyler and said Oyler's even been around his children.
"He was involved in a lot of the neighbors' lives as well as mine," he said. "He tricked us and manipulated us because we never suspected this and had I known he was like that, he'd never be around my family, that's for sure."
St. Johns County school bus driver Richard Copeland is charged with soliciting sex from children the same age as the elementary school kids he drives to school.
The St. Johns County school district suspended Copeland and spokesperson Christina Langston told Action News, "This is very disheartening; we can't control the actions of others but we can take swift and deliberate actions."
The district's superintendent is calling for Copeland's termination next week.
As of Wednesday afternoon, only one of the suspects had bonded out.