A Minneapolis middle school teacher has been charged with soliciting an underage girl for sex after posting an ad in the "casual encounters" section on Craigslist, according to a criminal complaint.
Joel Fowler, 23, is charged with two counts of electronic solicitation of a child after police say he made plans to meet up with a 14-year-old girl who responded to his ad.
According to the complaint:
The ad said, in part, that Fowler was "Ready to get to know someone younger" and he was "Just at a [high school] graduation and watching the girls really made me miss high school and the fun those girls are!"
Fowler was actually talking to an undercover police officer who was conducting an investigation and came across the ad – not a 14-year-old girl. Fowler and the undercover officer talked about having sex, they exchanged photos and decided to meet at a St. Paul park to have sex.
Police arrested Fowler Tuesday afternoon near Cherokee Park in St. Paul. He had condoms in his pockets. Fowler initially denied that he knew the age of the girl, but later admitted he knew she was 14.
Fowler told police he had posted and reposted five different Craigslist ads since 2012 because he was bored. He denied ever meeting anyone from an ad he posted. Fowler also said he's never had inappropriate contact with children at the school. He called in sick the day he was arrested.
Fowler has been placed on administrative leave from Olson Middle School in Minneapolis, WCCO reports. School officials said they are unaware of any history of complaints against Fowler.
In a statement released Wednesday, the Minneapolis Public School District says they are deeply concerned, and says "police have indicated that the employee's arrest is not linked to any students and did not take place on MPS property," KARE 11 says.
St. Paul police recently arrested two men in the same area of Fowler's arrest. They were also charged with electronic solicitation of a child. In those cases, a St. Paul police sergeant pretended to be a teenager and responded to online ads seeking sex, WCCO notes.