A 43-year-old pastor of a Winter Haven-area church has been arrested and charged with child sex crimes.
- Winter Haven-area pastor arrested on sex charges
- David Cooper, pastor of Mountain Movers Ministries
- Charges with sex battery and lewd/lascivious on person under 12
Sheriff's deputies arrested David Cooper, pastor of Mountain Movers Ministries in Eloise, on Thursday.
Cooper has been charged with sexual battery, victim under 12 and lewd/lascivious exhibition, victim under 12.
"This rocks the very core of what this country is about," said Sheriff Grady Judd.
"When your faith leader is attacking children under the age of 12, well under the age of 12, you've cut against the grain of two of the most precious things we have in our world, our children and our faith," he said.
Cooper has no known prior criminal history, according to the Polk County Sheriff's Office. Officials said said Cooper's contact with the victims did not come through the church.
Some of the people who attend his church didn't believe the allegations.
"There are children who go to that church. And a person who feeds on other children, unbeknownst to themselves shows indicators that they prefer children. He hasn't done that," said Damien Smith.
"I think he's a loving guy. When he preaches he is on the word," said Dee Dee Foster.
According to authorities, the investigation began in September 2017, when deputies responded to Winter Haven Hospital regarding a possible sexual abuse of a girl under 12.
An interview with the girl revealed that Cooper had exposed himself to her on at least four occasions in the past year, officials said.
During the investigation, it was learned that there might be a second victim.
According to authorities, that person, who is now an adult, said that Cooper sexually abused her numerous times when she was a child, to include sexual intercourse at least five times, when she was between 10 to 12-years-old.
Surveillance was conducted of a conversation between the now-adult victim and Cooper in which she recalled his sexual abuse of her, and he repeatedly told her that he was sorry for it, officials said.
"One of the stressful aspects of working in law enforcement, is having to come face-to-face with horrendous acts by a child predator," Judd said. "It's because of the dedication of our deputies who investigated this, and other crimes like it, and the willingness of victims and witnesses to come forward, that this man won't be able to do this to any child ever again."