A preschool volunteer at a megachurch in South Carolina was arrested after police said surveillance cameras captured him performing a sex act on a 3-year-old boy.
Jacop Hazlett, 28, has been charged with one count of first-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor under 11 years old
The alleged abuse happened on Nov. 25 while Hazlett was volunteering at NewSpring Church in North Charleston, according to an arrest affidavit. The report states Hazlett took the boy to a classroom bathroom and molested him.
Two other parents have since filed a civil lawsuit against the church and Hazlett, according to attorney Josh Slavin.
Slavin said the parents contacted him after officials reviewed 90-days of surveillance footage following Hazlett’s arrest, which allegedly showed their 4-year-old son being abused in a church bathroom on Sept. 20.
“What I saw was stomach turning," Slavin said. "What I saw was that this was happening in plain view of a security camera and was there to be seen and there to be stopped. And it was grotesque. So that’s why we filed a lawsuit immediately.”
The attorney is encouraging any other parents who feel their children may been victims to come forward. Slavin said his team will investigate any and all information.
According to the lawsuit, the children's bathroom is in the back of the 3 to 4-year-old daycare room and can be seen by the surveillance camera that covers the entire room. The lawsuit alleges that the surveillance feeds are supposed to be monitored by a volunteer.
The lawsuit claims the footage revealed 14 incidents that may show sexual abuse involving Hazlett and young boys.
The lawsuit is seeking damages for assault and battery against Hazlett and for neglect against the church.
NewSpring Church is based in Anderson County.
Communications Director Suzanne Swift shared this statement that she said was sent to families of children in their preschool ministry after Hazlett's arrest:
My name is Suzanne Swift, and I am the Communications Director at NewSpring Church. I wanted to take a moment and share some critical information with you.
On Monday, Nov. 26, 2018, NewSpring Church was made aware of a concern about Jake Hazlett (“Hazlett”), a volunteer who served in KidSpring at the Charleston Campus, and the possibility of inappropriate interaction with children.
Once we were made aware, we reviewed video footage from the past 90 days in which Hazlett served as a Kidspring volunteer. In the videos, it appears there was inappropriate conduct by Hazlett. We immediately took steps to prevent Hazlett from volunteering in any capacity at our church in the future and, at the same time, we reported this information to law enforcement. NewSpring is fully cooperating with law enforcement’s ongoing investigation.
NewSpring is steadfastly committed to safety and security, and because of this commitment, we have an extensive screening process for all adults before they are allowed to volunteer with children, birth through 12th grade. As a part of NewSpring’s child safety and security program, we perform criminal background checks, interview each potential volunteer candidate one-on-one, and provide detailed training for volunteers serving with children of all ages. Our background check includes verification of Social Security number, address history, National Criminal Database Search, National Sex Offender Search, and re-verification of no records of criminal convictions or use of aliases. Hazlett successfully completed our volunteer screening process before he was allowed to volunteer. Also, as part of NewSpring's commitment to safety and security, every KidSpring room contains video cameras.
If you have reason to believe inappropriate interactions may have occurred between Hazlett and your child, please contact Paul Schoolfield with the North Charleston Police Department immediately at 843-740-2521. You can also call Ryan Kirkland, our Charleston Campus Pastor, on his cell phone at 803-413-8422.