SALEM, Ore., Aug. 15 (UPI) -- An Oregon Catholic priest is under arrest, charged with molesting a 12-year-old boy and then chasing him down the street when he tried to escape.
The Rev. Angel Armando Perez, the 46-year-old pastor of St. Luke Catholic Church in Woodburn, was arraigned Tuesday, appearing by video link from the Marion County Jail, The (Portland) Oregonian reported. He was charged with sexual abuse, sexual abuse of a child, giving a child alcohol and drunken driving.
About 50 members of Perez's congregation came to the hearing. They said Perez united a congregation that had been split between longtime English-speaking members and Hispanics who have become a majority.
"He has been a lightning rod to unify the parish here," Carl Brown, an insurance agent and St. Luke's parishioner since 1985. "He's been the best homilist. He gives the best sermons that we've had for many years. We're in absolute shock. He does adhere very strictly to the policies and the bylaws of the church."
The victim told police Perez had offered to take him on a camping trip and he was to spend Sunday night at the rectory. He said he fell asleep on an air mattress on the living room floor after drinking beer with Perez and woke to find the priest touching him.
The 12-year-old went running down the street and sought help from James Curths, who was giving a barbecue.
"He was scared to death," Curths said. "It was like someone running from a ghost."
Perez, wearing what appeared to be underwear or a swimsuit, showed up and tried to get them to hand the boy over to him, witnesses said.
The boy's parents said Perez showed up about 2 a.m. Monday at their home in Salem and appeared to have been drinking.
The boy's brother said Perez apologized, saying he did not mean to hurt him, police reported in an affidavit.
"I am just one who serves in the church, and I have sinned. Don't stop believing in the church," Perez allegedly told the brother.