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Austin Rec Center Counselor Arrested For Child Sex Assault
A warning tonight for parents - a reminder of the danger your child could be putting themselves in, unknowingly, online.
Tonight, a city of Austin employee is jailed and fired, accused of sexually assaulting a young teen.
The assault happened after the two formed an online relationship.
Juan Garza Jr., 30, was arrested and fired Friday after he confessed to sexually assaulting a 14-year-old boy, according to police.
Garza was a counselor at the Dove Springs Rec Center in Southeast Austin, working the front desk and organizing activities for children. It was at the Dove Spring Rec Center, more than a year ago, that Garza met the teen victim.
At the Rec Center Thursday night, parents learned about the arrest and expressed no surprise that it was Garza who was under arrest. One parent said Garza, whom she knew from her child’s soccer team, always gave her a bad feeling, calling it a ‘mother’s intuition’.
Friday night, the Austin Pals soccer team was celebrating the end of the season with a late-night pick-up game and a picnic. The team of 6 and 7-year-old boys practice at the Dove Springs Rec Center so many of the children and parents knew Juan Garza Jr.
“Unfortunately we heard what happened. It is something that is to worry about,” said Max Najera, the coach of the Austin Pals.
Najera knew Garza from coaching at Dove Springs. He said incidents like this are the reason why he encourages the parents of his players to get involved with the kid’s activities.
“The good thing about my team is that we try to get the family involved every day,” said Najera. “That way they can look after their kids make sure their safety is there.”
According to police, Garza met the 14-year-old male victim at the Rec Center a year ago. Last month, the two formed an online social media relationship, said police, which led to a physical sexual assault earlier this week. Police say Garza picked up the victim on Stassney Lane and Nuckols Crossing Road in Austin on the evening of Dec. 2 and took him to his apartment where the assault occurred.
“As a father, I've always put the computer where I can see it,” said Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo about online safety.
Chief Acevedo says this case should serve as a reminder for parents about the importance of monitoring who your children are talking to online, even if it’s someone they trust.
“It is important for parents to monitor social media, maybe even friend their own kids unknowingly so they can know what's going on,” said Chief Acevedo.
And with just one more game left this season, parents for the Austin Pals say they’re breathing a little easier knowing Juan Garza Jr. won't be on the sidelines.
Police found out about the sexual assault from Garza himself; he self-reported and confessed to the crime, according to police.
While the investigation is still on-going, police say they no reason to think there are any other victims.
Officers with APD's child abuse unit will be at Dove Springs Rec Center this weekend to answer questions and talking with parents.
If you have information about this incident, or any other child sexual abuse call the APD Child Abuse Unit at 512-974-6880.
By Karen Kiley