City ministers accused of obstructing abuse probe

State police investigation at church camp in Carroll

August 03, 2002|By Childs Walker and John Rivera | Childs Walker and John Rivera,SUN STAFF

Two Baltimore ministers have been charged with obstructing a police investigation into suspected child abuse at a church-run camp in Carroll County.

The Revs. Raphael Gamalial Warnock, 33, and Mark Andre Wainwright, 30, of Douglas Memorial Community Church are accused in court documents of trying to prevent a state trooper from interviewing counselors at the church's Camp Farthest Out in Eldersburg.

A state trooper assigned to the case said neither of the clergymen is a suspect in the child abuse investigation, but the officer would not describe the nature of the suspected abuse.

Warnock, who is senior pastor of the West Baltimore church, said yesterday that the alleged abuse is not sexual. Because the investigation is continuing, he refused to further discuss the accusations of child abuse.

The ministers interrupted a police interview of a counselor Wednesday in a room at the camp and, after investigators moved the interview to a nearby picnic area, interfered again and subsequently tried to prevent a camper from directing police to another potential witness, according to charging documents.

"I've never encountered resistance like that at all," said Trooper Diane Barry of the state police Child and Sexual Assault Unit in Westminster. Barry said the counselors consented to the interviews after being told they were free to go at any time and were not obligated to answer her questions.

After being arrested and charged, the two men were released on their own recognizance to await trial, scheduled for Oct. 30.

Warnock denied any wrongdoing in his interaction with police, saying he was only asserting that lawyers should be present during counselor interviews.

"Reverend Wainwright and I acted well within the framework of the law, and I am confident that we will be exonerated. It's just unfortunate that our children had to see their pastors carried away in handcuffs," he said. "My concern simply had to do with the presence of counsel. We cooperated fully with their investigation. We have nothing to hide."

Last year, Warnock became the fourth pastor of the 700-member Douglas Memorial Community Church, one of the city's most prominent African-American congregations. He came to Baltimore from the historic Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York.

Warnock has been active in challenging black churches to do more in HIV/AIDS prevention and education, an issue many have been reluctant to engage. He organized a symposium on the issue that was held during the weekend of his installation as pastor and he commemorated the birthday of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. this year by getting an HIV test in an effort to help remove the stigma associated with the procedure.

Wainwright is assistant minister for youth at the church.

Warnock said Camp Farthest Out was established 40 years ago as an outreach ministry of Douglas Memorial. It serves 300 inner-city children each year in three, two-week sessions.

The camp, which includes cabins, a pool, a basketball court and playground equipment, covers 50 acres in a rural area of South Carroll. The camp's last session of the summer ended yesterday.

Sun staff writer Athima Chansanchai contributed to this article.

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