A Cartersville police lieutenant resigned in lieu of termination amid an internal investigation into dozens of Snapchat messages and texts that he sent to middle school girls, authorities said.
Lt. Ryan Prescott, who also worked as the school resource officer at Cartersville Middle School, admitted to sending the messages to three girls, which the department found “unprofessional and inappropriate” according to documents obtained by AJC.com through an open records request.
On March 2, police Chief Frank McCann ordered the internal investigation into Prescott’s conduct after he was contacted by the assistant superintendent for the Cartersville School System, the documents said. School officials were aware of messages between Prescott and three middle school students.
Prescott was interviewed the following day and placed on paid administrative leave. A day later, he emailed McCann his resignation letter.
During the interview, Prescott said he taught several classes at the school, including “Sexting and Social Media.” However, he admitted to being unfamiliar with some social media platforms, specifically Snapchat.
He said an eighth grade student showed him how to use Snapchat, which is when he began to message that student and two other girls, the documents said. Prescott told investigators that his intent was to “build a ‘trusting’ relationship with the student (who set up his account) since he had concerns about her being bullied.” He also said the student was having problems at home.
Aside from claiming that the girl repeatedly visited the school counselor, he couldn’t provide an example of why he thought she was experiencing bullying or problems at home, according to the documents.
“When confronted with the comments he exchanged with the students, Prescott agreed that they may appear inappropriate but that was not his intent,” according to the documents.
Among the documents were 20 pages worth of Snapchat and text messages that were obtained by investigators. He used the Snapchat name “Bubba Ryan.”
He also allegedly sent messages to multiple students claiming to be drunk. In the interview, Prescott refuted that he was drunk in addition to denying the accusation that he was attempting to “groom” the child.
In one exchange, he told a girl he was “drunk texting everyone,” to which the child responded “drinking is bad” and “... why you do it. you supposed to be a good influence.”
As part of the investigation, officers spoke to three parents, whose children were among those communicating with Prescott. The parents were also contacted by the school’s principal about the incident.
The parents told investigators they had seen inappropriate messages between their kids and Prescott, but they had not seen anything sexual. However, they each claimed that they heard Prescott was more explicit with other students, including “hooking up at school,” the document said.
In one message, Prescott told a girl to delete the messages and not tell others because “rumors will spread.”
The mother of one of the students said she was concerned by the volume of messages rather than the content, with the exception of one message that made “her feel weird.”
The message was, “Ill give you a finger up too butthead.”
The woman said, “She felt the messages were inappropriate considering her daughter’s age and Prescott’s position with the school and the agency,” the documents said.
During one exchange, he also discussed the sexual orientation of one of the girls. In the interview, he claimed he discussed it in an effort to “build a relationship with her,” the documents said.
Prescott continually asked the girl if she had a boyfriend, and she eventually replied that she was interested in a girl at school, according to the Snapchat messages.
He then asked, “Do all your friends know you like girls butt? Lmao” before asking her to “send me a pic of her.” Prescott denied sending, receiving or requesting inappropriate photos or sexual content from the girls.
On March 5, the day after Prescott resigned, the investigation concluded that he violated Cartersville Police Department standard operating procedures, the documents said. They cited three sections that he violated, including “professional image,” “social networking” and “conduct unbecoming.”
According to Prescott’s file with the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council, he was hired by Cartersville police in 2010. He was promoted to sergeant in 2013 and lieutenant in 2015. His file showed no prior disciplinary history.
The documents do not indicate that Prescott faces any criminal charges as a result of the investigation.
— Staff writer Chelsea Prince contributed to this article.
In other news:
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.
Download the new AJC app. More local news, more breaking news and in-depth journalism. AJC.com. Atlanta. News. Now.
Download the new AJC app. More local news, more breaking news and in-depth journalism.