Sitting in the lobby of the Hamilton County Jail, Ronnie Powe Sr. held his head in his hands Wednesday after hearing news of his son's aggravated rape charge.
"I don't know anything," said Powe Sr., the pastor at United Tabernacle Church of God in Christ. His son, Ronnie Powe Jr., 27, is a youth pastor at the church.
Powe Jr. is accused of performing a sex act on a 15-year-old boy and masturbating in a car behind the abandoned East Lake Elementary School on Tuesday night, according to Chattanooga Police Department reports.
When police approached the car, Powe Jr. identified himself as a youth minister at the church and said he was talking to one of his troubled students, according to reports.
Officers asked Powe Jr. to step out of the vehicle. When he did, they noticed his pants zipper was down and he could not explain why, the reports stated.
The teen told officers he met Powe Jr. on an online gay dating website and they had decided to meet in person. Powe Jr. picked him up at his home, the teen told police.
Powe Jr. at first denied having sexual contact with the teen, but later admitted to performing oral sex on him, according to reports.
He posted a $3,500 bond Wednesday afternoon and declined to comment while in jail. When approached by jail officials about an interview request, he began to cry.
Powe Jr. is working on a middle-school education degree, according to family members.
His father said he was in shock over the allegations.
"Had we known what he was involved in, we would have sat him down," said Powe Sr., who oversees the 125-member church at 2418 Dodson Ave. "We teach against homosexuality."
Powe Sr. said the teenager was not a member of the church.
Despite the charges against his son, he did not express concern about his son's interaction with younger members of the congregation.
"We monitor that type of thing," he said.
Powe Jr. is scheduled to appear in General Sessions Court on Feb. 21 before Judge Clarence Shattuck. If convicted, he could face two to four years in prison.
Contact staff writer Beth Burger at bburger@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6406.