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Saturday, July 07, 2007                                                                                       View Comments

Pastor charged with groping

Akron - A 32-yr-old married pastor at The Chapel, the most popular church in Akron, is accused of grabbing two women at Chapel Hill mall.

Adam Barton of Cuyahoga Falls faces two counts of sexual imposition, a misdemeanor charge.

Police say Barton grabbed a 24-yr-old woman Tuesday inside the Charlotte Russe store. Minutes later, police say he grabbed a 17-yr-old girl in Victoria's Secret.

"His whole body just brushed up into mine," said the 24-yr-old who wished to remain anonymous. "And then he grabbed my butt. It felt intentional. It was not just a bump."

The woman instantly reacted.

"I turned around and I said, 'You just groped me,'and I punched him in the arm and the shoulder. He was just shocked and ran out," she said.

The woman told security officers and together, they found her alleged attacker browsing inside a store. When they approached him, the 17-yr-old appeared from around the corner and recognized him. The teen told police she was also groped by Barton.

"I was so angry that he could just get away with that. I thought, he just walked in here grabbed me and then walked out," said the victim.

Head pastor Knute Larson has placed Barton on pastoral leave until the matter is resolved. Larson is vacationing in Michigan, but he interviewed over the telephone. He said Barton was hired about 3 years ago.

"He has had a perfect record on issues of relationships and behavior. We are trusting due process. It's being handled," he said.

The woman who helped security find Barton in the mall does not blame the church for his actions.

"I don't want to bash the institution that he worked for or say that they're responsible for it. I think that he individually represents something that they don't," she said.

The woman also offers advice to anybody who may feel he or she has been violated. By reacting right away and then reporting it, she was able to fight back.

"I didn't want anyone else to have to be a victim," she said.