In July, 61-year-old Chris Bowman hosted a barbecue and invited people to it on Grindr in his hometown of Apex, North Carolina.
Screenshots of the invitation went massively viral, with many people calling it heartwarming, and BuzzFeed News interviewed Bowman about it at the time. He went on to host events for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
After Bowman began advertising his Christmas party, people on social media discovered that Bowman is on the sex offender registry in North Carolina for crimes against minors that occurred in the late 1990s and mid-2000s.
A Tumblr post, which now has more than 400,000 notes, shared details of Bowman's registration and three convictions, which include kidnapping and an unspecified crime, all against minors.
Bowman did not return a request for comment from BuzzFeed News in response to this article.
According to court documents viewed by BuzzFeed News, Bowman was convicted of kidnapping for an incident in 2005 in which two young teenage girls had sex with two men, aged 24 and 18, while in Bowman's house. Bowman was not alleged to have had any sexual contact with the minors during this incident.
In a separate incident in 1997, according to court documents, Bowman fondled a 14-year-old boy's penis during a golf lesson. He was convicted of sexual battery as a result.
Documents also describe a 1998 incident in which Bowman allegedly sexually assaulted a 15-year-old female friend of his daughter during a slumber party. It is unclear from court filings whether Bowman was convicted for this alleged incident, and BuzzFeed News has reached out to the court and district attorney for more information.
After the July barbecue, Matthew Setzer, a 23-year-old who attended the event, told BuzzFeed News he was glad he went and that Bowman was "an absolute sweetheart and a really genuine guy."
But after learning about Bowman's crimes, Setzer said he is "so devastated" for his victims and added, "[I have] tried to distanced myself from Chris and the BBQ because I no longer trust the motivation behind events."
"At the end of the day, I'm more concerned for his victims and hope they didn't have to see their abuser posted on the internet for being such a stand-up guy, and hope I didn't cause them any additional grief for holding Chris in such high esteem," Setzer said.
In another Tumblr post, which was posted Thursday, another attendee named Andrew said he and his friends found Bowman "creepy" when they attended his July barbecue the year prior.
Jacky, a 21-year-old from Chapel Hill who went to the event with Andrew in 2017, told BuzzFeed News that Bowman repeatedly tried to get him to take off his shirt and tried to get them to come back to what he called the "after-dark" portion of the event.
"That made me uncomfortable because when we were messaging on Grindr, I was like, 'Just to be clear, this is absolutely not sexual in any way.' This is just that you are advertising a barbecue for the community,'" Jacky said.
The day after the barbecue, Bowman continued messaging Jacky on Grindr, at one point making a sexual comment about his friend's penis. The messages continued for a year after that, none of which Jacky replied to.
During his interview with BuzzFeed News about the barbecue in July, Bowman said he puts it on because he is recovering from alcoholism, "and it's just kind of like my way of giving back."
"As an alcoholic, I haven't spoken to or seen my kids since 2004. I haven't talked to my mother since ’99," he said. "There's things that go on in life that you make choices about, and I chose wrongly. I chose the drink."
"I’ve been sober for eight and a half years now, and I just kind of feel the need, instead of being the asshole that I was, to be a softer, kinder, gentler, let’s-get-together kinda guy," he said.