CHARLOTTE (QUEEN CITY NEWS) – A soccer coach and youth leader connected to several Charlotte-area churches has been arrested for sexually assaulting at least three teenage boys, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police announced on Friday.
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Benjamin Damron, 36, has been charged with one count of sexual battery and nine counts of indecent liberties with a child.
The crimes occurred across Charlotte, Matthews, and Union County, authorities said.
According to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police, two of the three victims are under 15 years old and one of the victims is over 15 years old.
The investigation began on Wednesday, Nov. 16, when CMPD’s Crimes Against Children Unit received separate reports from the victims.
All three victims were interviewed at Pat’s Place Child Advocacy Center in Charlotte, CMPD said.
In a news conference Friday, CMPD listed Elevation Church, Mercy Church, Southbrook Church, and Soccer Shots as places where Damron either worked or volunteered in the past. He did not have a criminal record, according to CMPD.
Although in the early stages of the investigation, CMPD says they know Damron met all three victims at a church. CMPD did not specify which church.
“Damron met his victims in a role as a volunteer church youth leader and coach. He used his position to take advantage of the victims and sexually assault them,” CMPD said.
Over the years, he would reportedly take his victims to area parks or his residence, police said.
CMPD said on Friday they believe the crimes have been occurring for at least five years and ‘could have gone on longer.’
“I don’t know what lead the individual kids to come forward,” a detective with CMPD said on Friday. “We’re proud of their bravery.”
Based on the known pattern, CMPD believes there are more victims out there.
“Our children are so vulnerable, to send our kids out into the world is a scary situation but we’ve got to trust that our kids are safe. As parents, as caretakers, we have to be able to have conversations with them and let them know what’s appropriate and what’s not appropriate.”
Watch Friday’s news conference below:
Anyone who may have further information on these cases or thinks that they may have been a victim of Damron is asked to call Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police at 704-353-1940.
Detectives said on Friday this is just the beginning of a ‘long and thorough investigation.’
Elevation released the following statement.
First of all, our thoughts and prayers go out to all the families involved. We did inform CMPD that Benjamin Damron has not been an active volunteer or small group leader since 2019. The church had no knowledge of any of these instances. And none of these instances are alleged to have happened in or around church-owned facilities. We will continue to work with the authorities if they need anything further and continue to pray for the families.
Mr. Damron served on occasion from 2014-2017 as a drummer at a remote campus and he was not affiliated with Elevation Worship. He served as a small group co-leader from 2015-2019 when he left to attend another church. This role did include a background check that was performed with no red flags.
Mercy also released the following statement.
We were made aware through the November 18th evening news of the allegations
involving Mercy Church in regard to the investigation of Benjamin Damron. We grieve for
those who were victims in this situation and are praying for all of those affected.
We have been and remain in contact with the authorities and will continue to support
them in their investigation efforts.
We would like to clarify that Mr. Damron has never been involved in leadership or served
in any capacity with MercyKids, Mercy Students, or any other ministry at Mercy Church
and was never a member of Mercy Church. We have no record of Mr. Damron being
engaged at Mercy Church since our church opened in 2015.
The safety of the children in our care is of utmost importance to us. We take all matters
regarding our security policies seriously. We strongly encourage anyone with information
about this situation to contact the investigating authorities.
Soccer Shots sent the following statement to parents.
We were made aware of the disturbing allegations made against a former, part-time Soccer Shots of Charlotte coach. We want our families to know that the suspect was never affiliated, employed by or in contact with our organization, Soccer Shots of Greater Charlotte, at any point in time. We are thinking of the victims, their bravery and their families.
The media is only using the term “Soccer Shots” in their story, so we want to be clear that it was not our franchise that is in the news.
We take the safety for our soccer friends very seriously and as such, all of our applicants, coaches, admin and office staff undergo extensive background checks yearly; in accordance with North Carolina laws.
We understand the weight and the fear that this information can cause. We are extremely saddened for the children and families affected, but we assure you that this individual was never on the field with any children within the Soccer Shots of Greater Charlotte organization.
Thank you for entrusting us with the privilege of making a lifelong positive impact on the special child in your life.