Glendale pastor who sexually assaulted minor claims that 'he was at the wrong place at the wrong time'
Pastor Douglas Rivera became the prime suspect in the sexual assault case of a minor after police found footage of Rivera at the scene. He subsequently went on the run but eventually turned himself in.
Police in the Los Angeles County of Covina were on the hunt for 40-year-old pastor Douglas Rivera, who is thought to be complicit in the sexual assault of a minor girl. Rivera, who posted an explanation for his actions on his Instagram page and promised to turn himself into the authorities, was apprehended by the police on Sunday.
Rivera stands accused of watching two minor girls from the parking lot of the Vanlee Hotel and Suites on 1211 E Garvey Street and then masturbating to them before walking into their rooms and sexually assaulting one of them. The Covina Police Department had released his images to the public with hopes of getting any lead on his current whereabouts.
Police had described him as a stockily built, balding man with hair around the ears, a short beard, and prescription glasses. He was said to be driving a newer black/dark colored Dodge 4500 Ram truck with a flatbed and a large metal ramp for a tailgate. Officers had already confiscated bags and boxes of evidence after serving a search warrant at the pastor's Baldwin Park home.
He was not at home at the time the warrant was served and is reportedly married and has children. In a bid to avoid suspicion, police say he painted his truck, with several eyewitnesses in the neighborhood confirming that the truck had recently been given a paint job. One witness even said that he had painted over his truck the day police started looking for him.
Officers had described his claims to turn himself in as 'self-serving' and 'an attempt to mislead people,' but a post on their Facebook page on Sunday announced that CPD detectives had successfully taken Rivera into custody without incident after the pastor, staying true to his promise, had indeed turned himself in. He has been booked for his crime and is currently being held at the Covina Police Department.
According to the department, the two minors in question were just 10 and 12-years-old and visiting as a part of a student exchange program from China. A report states that the suspect, Rivera, drove through the hotel's parking lot until he saw a lit room with open drapes during the late hours of the evening.
He then exited his vehicle and stood outside of the minors' hotel window, pretending to be on the phone for over 30 minutes. Rivera then walked through the hotel towards their door and forced himself into the room once the children had opened the door believing him to be their chaperone. He proceeded to assault one of the minors and then fled away in his truck.
Word of the incident soon reached the Chinese Consulate General in Los Angeles, with spokesperson Fei Gao saying: "The Chinese Consulate General has noticed relevant reports and concerns over the case. We strongly condemn any violent crime targeting minors and hope the offender be brought to justice as soon as possible."
"So far, we have got in contact with the local police to inquire on the details of the case. Once confirmed that the victim is a Chinese national, we will offer necessary assistance to the victim and her family."
According to a video posted on their website, Rivera worked as a pastor at God's Gypsy Christian Church in Glendale, with the site's contact page also giving out his phone number. The church is yet to comment on the unsavory incident.
Rivera attempted to defend the incident on a video he posted on to his Instagram page, claiming that he was simply 'at the wrong place at the wrong time,' and that he would turn himself into the authorities but that he would have a lawyer defending him.
He could be heard saying: "I did not do nothing wrong. I was at the wrong place at the wrong time. Something happened in that hotel, and that's the simple answer. I'm just finished with my lawyer. I'm going to jail on Wednesday with the lawyer to submit myself so they could continue their investigation. There is absolutely no truth [to these allegations]. I love you Los Angeles. Please keep me in prayer. God will take his truth out. I love you."
The God's Gypsy Christian Church was renting out space from the Glendale City Church, with Todd Leonard, a senior pastor there saying that there was nothing about Rivera that could have suggested he was capable of doing such a thing.
Leonard said that Rivera ran a separate congregation out of the church and that the two ministries had a business arrangement in which Rivera used the facility around two times a week. He told CBS Los Angeles: "We have a rental contract with them but they are a separate organization."
"I had a brief interaction with a Glendale Police Department official who was looking for pastor Rivera. Well, my first things is I'm just heartbroken for any children that would go through a traumatic experience," he said, speaking about Rivera.
In a press release on Facebook, the Glendale Church distanced itself from Rivera. The statement read: "This evening, Glendale City Church of Seventh-day Adventists (GCCSDA) learned about an alleged sexual assault by Rev. Douglas Rivera, pastor of God's Gypsy Christian Church / Renewing Your Mind Ministries (RYMM)."
"The relationship between Glendale City Church and RYMM is simply lessor to lessee...Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families, with the RYMM congregation, with law enforcement and with Rev. Rivera. We pray for justice and healing to win the day."
According to local news sources in the area, the latest development in the case has already seen the pastor freed on bail. Having posted a bail of $280,000, he was escorted out of the station by two officers. When questioned by a reporter at the scene, Rivera refused to answer any of the questions and left with his lawyer in the car.
Sergeant Ray Marquez said that Rivera was booked on a number of charges, including child molestation, indecent exposure, and burglary. He will remain a free man until his next court appearance, which is believed to be in April, but police are concerned he might make a run for it or worse, retaliate against the girls.
Here is the CCTV video of Rivera that the police had released:
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