Youth leader charged with sex crimes involving kids he met at churches, CMPD says

CHARLOTTE — Police say a man who worked as a volunteer youth leader at several large churches in Charlotte has been charged with multiple child sex crimes involving kids at those churches.

Benjamin Damron, 36, is charged with nine counts of indecent liberties with a child and one count of sexual battery, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police said. Damron met all three victims in his role as a church youth leader, and police said he is accused of using his position to take advantage of and sexually assault several children.

In a news conference Friday, CMPD said Damron was arrested at his home. They said the victims in the case are teenage boys, and Damron’s charges in the case go back at least five years. The victims and their families knew Damron, investigators said, and Damron allegedly took the boys to his house and to several parks to be abused.

One of the victims is older than the age of 15, police added.

On Saturday, police posted that Damron had been released shortly after 2:30 a.m.

Police said they started investigating the case on Wednesday when they received two separate reports with same suspect. They said they identified three possible victims and interviewed them at Pat’s Place Child Advocacy Center.

According to police, Damron had a leadership role at Elevation Church and was a coach with Soccer Shots. Police later clarified that Damron attended Mercy Church and Southbrook Church but did not hold any official leadership roles.

Damron’s Twitter account has him listed as a drummer for Elevation. It is there a source told Channel 9 he met one of his accusers.

Channel 9 has reached out to the organizations to find out what Damron’s role was, how many campuses he was affiliated with, and what his current employment status is.

Officials at Elevation Church, told Channel 9 Saturday morning they informed CMPD Damron has not been an active volunteer or small group leader since 2019.

According to Elevation, Damron served on occasion from 2014-2017 as a drummer at a remote campus, but was not affiliated with the church.

He served as a small group co-leader from 2017-2019 when he left to attend another church, according to officials. Elevation said the role did include a background check that was performed with no red flags.

“The church had no knowledge of any of these instances,” officials said. “And none of these instances are alleged to have happened in or around church-owned facilities.”

Elevation also said they will continue to work with authorities.

Officials at Southbrook Church, where Damron sometimes attended, have contacted authorities.

Damron was never a member, volunteer or a youth leader at the church, officials said. He attended the church over the past couple of years occasionally but not consistently.

“We strongly encourage anyone with information about this situation to contact the investigating authorities,” church officials said.

Officials with Mercy Church also said they have been in contact with the authorities.

“We would like to clarify that Mr. Damron has never been involved in leadership or served in any capacity with Mercy Kids, Mercy Students or any other ministry at Mercy Church and was never a member of Mercy Church.”

Officials said there is no record of Damron being engaged at Mercy Church since it opened in 2015.

“The safety of the children in our care is of utmost importance to us,” church officials said in a statement. “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 Channel 9: “We were made aware of the disturbing allegations made against a former part-time Soccer Shots coach. We are not aware of any allegations of inappropriate conduct or behavior impacting any current or former Soccer Shots participants.

“The safety of all our Soccer Shots participants is paramount and therefore, all coaches are required to complete background checks and clearances in accordance with North Carolina laws. Those clearances for the former coach in question were completed prior to coaching with us and raised no adverse findings, clearing him for employment.

“We understand the weight and the fear that this information can cause for parents. We are extremely saddened for the children and families affected.”

As far as CMPD is aware, Damron did not have a criminal history before these allegations, investigators said.

“We wanted to bring this information to the public because we believe that there are likely more victims out there,” said CMPD Lt. Jim Ivie.

The alleged crimes happened in Charlotte, Matthews and Union County, so CMPD detectives are working with the law enforcement agencies in those areas.

“These are very disturbing types of cases,” Ivie said.

Police asked anyone who has been victimized by Damron to call Detective Brennan at 704-353-1940.

“I don’t know what lead each individual child to come forward but they are extremely brave to do so, and I applaud their bravery and their family’s bravery,” Ivie said.

>> The North Carolina state child abuse hotline is 1-800-CHILDREN. When you call, you’ll be connected with North Carolina-based resources. The national child abuse hotline is 1-800-4-A-CHILD.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

(WATCH BELOW: ‘What kind of message are we sending’: CMPD chief questions lower bond for sexual assault suspect)

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