A former Philadelphia police officer is accused of sexually abusing young girls and threatening witnesses. The city's district attorney fears there could be more victims.
Retired police officer Patrick Heron, 52, faces more than one dozen counts related to "unlawful sexual contact with young girls, sexually illegal and inappropriate photography with young girls, retaliation and harassment against victims and witnesses -- both adult and juvenile," Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner said at a Friday morning news conference.
Krasner called it "an extremely disturbing case" and "one of the worst I've even seen" against a former member of law enforcement.
Heron has remained jailed on $2 million bail since his arrest Wednesday on unlawful contact with a child, indecent assault on a child, forgery, harassment and related charges, according to digital court records.
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"This is not only about terrible conduct, it's about a pretty terrible effort at cover-up, intimidation and abuse of pretty much every process you can imagine," Krasner said.
The DA's office urged the media to release Heron's photo since there could be more victims who have yet to come forward.
Heron attempted to reach out to young girls electronically to have them send "intimate photographs" and groom them for in-person contact, Krasner said.
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"Following execution of several search warrants, DA Detectives recovered from accounts and devices associated with the defendant electronic messages of a sexual nature with girls, electronic messages of a menacing and threatening nature with witnesses, and attempts to fabricate criminal allegations against witnesses and to hack into their social media accounts," the news release from the DA's office said. "Nude and non-consensual photographs of teenage or younger girls were also recovered by detectives."
In some cases, the retired Heron misrepresented himself as a current police officer and in other message he didn't identify who he was, Krasner said.
A Philadelphia public school was involved as well, Krasner said, but he didn't name the school due to the ongoing investigation. He did, however, say that the DA's office has reached out to the School District of Philadelphia and the teacher's union to fill them in on the investigation.
"This is every parent's nightmare, this is every teacher's nightmare," Krasner told reporters.
The DA didn't reveal any more specifics about the allegations against Heron.
All the allegations against Heron happened after his retirement from the police department in 2019. Krasner didn't elaborate further on where Heron has worked since he retired.
"There are few crimes more corrosive to public safety and community trust in institutions than witness intimidation, harassment, and retaliation," Krasner said a in news release. "The allegations against former Officer Patrick Heron are among the most alarming, sensitive, and serious that detectives and prosecutors in my administration have investigated."
"I urge anyone with additional information about this defendant’s alleged misconduct -- especially young girls or women who may have been fearful in the past to come forward -- to contact our Special Investigations Unit directly," Krasner said.
Anyone with information or who wants to come forward can contact the DAO Special Investigations Unit at DAO_SIU@phila.gov or 215–686–9608. The DA's office urged any sexual abuse survivors to contact WOAR Philadelphia Center Against Sexual Violence's 24-hour hotline at 215-985-3333.
An attorney representing Heron told NBC10 that Heron's next court date is in November and that his client was initially arrested in April and charged with stalking and harassment, but he had no further comment about the case.