The Atlanta Police Department announced it has arrested a male suspect accused of sexually assaulting children multiple times while working at a summer camp over the course of three years. The police are also seeking the public’s help in finding witnesses or other victims.
In an April 16 news conference, Lt. Felicia Claxton, commander of the police’s special victims unit, said the department believes there were several victims but would not release the number yet. The incidents took place from 2016 to 2018 at a camp at the West End Family Life and Community Center, located at 1191 Donnelly Ave. and owned by Atlanta West End Seventh-Day Adventist Church.
However, Claxton said the police have not yet determined if the camp was run by the church, though she did say it was run by church members and the suspect was also a church member. The suspect is not being identified by police yet.
“This case is heartbreaking because the people entrusted to protect children, our most vulnerable population, violated their trust and harmed innocent children,” Claxton said, adding the camp was for children ages 5 through 11.
She said all the victims that have come forward so far are under age 12 today. The case may have broken after one victim came forward. According to a police report, a woman on Feb. 3 reported to an officer crimes committed against her 10-year-old granddaughter after she told her about them recently.
“(She) stated she didn’t get all the details as far as what happened, but what she did get from (was) that during the course of this time period, (the suspect) did fondle her and penetrate her several times,” the report stated.
According to the report, the girl told the grandmother about the incidents a month earlier, but she waited to tell the police after talking to a lawyer who gave bad advice. After speaking to another attorney who urged her to report it to the police immediately, she did.
During the Q&A portion of the news conference, Claxton was asked by a reporter if police believe there is more than one suspect involved, and she said the police are still investigating. She would not release the ages of the victims that have already come forward or how many there are, but added the police believe more victims will step up.
“We’re talking about a series of several years, so when we’re talking about years, sexual assault victims normally take a moment to talk,” Claxton said. “We’re talking about children. This is something that is very sensitive for an adult, so for a child it’s even more difficult. So this is why we’re here today, to say we want to get all of our victims to come (forward) so we can make sure this person is held accountable.”
Anyone with information about the incidents or the suspect is asked to contact Crime Stoppers Atlanta. Tips can be submitted anonymously at 404-577-8477 or online at http://bit.ly/3i0F6OY. Witnesses do not have to give their name or any identifying information.