Mom warned church about youth leader who was later arrested for sex crimes

CHARLOTTE — A mother told Channel 9 her son was targeted by a youth leader and said for years, she felt ignored.

Eight years later and 1,000 miles away, the perpetrator was arrested in Charlotte. The mom said she fought for years to get Benjamin Damron away from children, so his arrest came as no surprise. She explained to Channel 9′s Dan Matics that he got “weird” with her son more than a decade ago.

In the following years, Benjamin Damron volunteered as a youth leader in several large Charlotte churches. He was arrested in November 2022, accused of abusing multiple teenage boys.

“This is the person that no one would believe me when I came to them and said this was a sexual predator,” the mom, Angelia, said.

She asked Channel 9 not to share her last name. She said she has spent more than a decade trying to warn church organizations that Damron should not be near children.

Angelia said in 2011, she and her family attended a church in San Antonio where Damron was a youth pastor. She said she found Facebook messages between Damron and her son, who was 13 years old at the time.

“I was sick to my stomach,” she said.

“Ben Damron had been pursuing my son for a long time,” she told Matics. “For months -- obsessing with my son early at morning, late at night.”

She said the messages show Damron, who was then in his mid-20s, contacting her son in the middle of the night and encouraging him to discuss sexual topics -- at one point saying, “It amazes me how ticklish you are.”

The messages show Damron on multiple occasions trying to get time alone with her son. In one exchange when the boy was home alone with strep throat, Damron offered to come over and take care of him.

“I said, ‘no you have step throat,’” Angelia said. “He messaged that to Ben Damron and his response was, ‘I’ll only catch it if we kiss.’”

Angelia said she took a stack of Facebook messages to a prosecutor and was told while this was certainly creepy, it was not criminal.

“He said this is a predator. Hold onto these -- this is a sexual predator, and he knows exactly where the lines are,” she said.

Angelia said she also reported Damron to the San Antonio church but, when little was done, her family left. Fast forward to 2019, when she learned Damron was volunteering as a youth leader and drummer at Elevation Church in Matthews. She showed Matics emails she had sent to Elevation -- including Damron’s Facebook messages to her son -- she said in an effort to warn them and protect other children.

No one from Elevation responded to her.

Then, Angelia saw Damron’s name on the news, which was something she had predicted in her emails. In November 2022, three people came forward claiming they were sexually assaulted by Damron when they were teenagers.

“I was praying for him to be exposed, so, it was shocking that this person that I had tried and tried to stop was finally caught,” Angelia said while filled with emotion.

Angelia said after seeing the news, she contacted Elevation again and spoke to the director of security. She said he knew nothing about her previous emails and asked her to send them again, and also apologized.

“Everyone is so sorry that it happened,” she said.

This week, Channel 9 asked Elevation why the church didn’t respond to Angelia when she first contacted them about her concerns. On Tuesday, Elevation responded with a statement saying that within weeks of Angelia’s email, pastors addressed the situation. The statement also said the youth group Damron helped lead stopped meeting, and that he left the church.

But Elevation never said any of that publicly when Damron was arrested in November.

Channel 9 also asked whether church leadership investigated Damron’s interactions with the youth group, notified parents about the concern or went to police. So far, Elevation has not responded to those questions.

Angelia is just glad Damron has been arrested and said she’ll be happier if he’s convicted.

“There was an exhilarating rush. ‘He’s caught, he’s caught,’” And then there was this reality about him that hit so hard,” she said. “Everything I knew about him was true.”

Elevation told Channel 9 they took the mom’s allegations very seriously but said they didn’t do a good job of communicating with Angelia.

Investigators said Damron was also a youth leader at Mercy and Southbrook churches and worked as a coach with Soccer Shots. They said he met his teenage victims while working with those organizations, and said the abuse happened in Matthews, Charlotte and Union County.

Full statement from Elevation Church:

“First of all, our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the families affected by this situation. We also are constantly working on internal systems and policies and procedures that will strengthen our campus security and our ability to protect children and students who are ever entrusted to our care, even if only for an hour or two a week.

“We have recently spoken with [Angelia] about the email she sent to one of our campus pastors in 2019, alerting him that Ben Damron had “groomed” her son in 2011-2012 when they attended Damron’s church in Texas. Our campus pastor did take her email seriously and directed our then youth directors associated with Ben Damron’s campus to address the matter. Within weeks, the small group co-led by Ben Damron from approximately 2015-2019 had stopped meeting, dissolving completely shortly thereafter and Damron stopped attending the church. It appears we did not do a good job of communicating back with [Angelia] about the matter; we regret that and are making efforts to do so now.”

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Dan Matics

Dan Matics, wsoctv.com

Dan is a reporter and anchor for Channel 9.