A former Olympic boxing gold medalist and head boxing coach at a Los Angeles County gym in East Los Angeles faces felony charges after his arrest on suspicion of lewd acts on a child, officials said.
Paul Garza Gonzales, 53, was arrested Friday and is facing eight felonies, four of which are lewd acts on a child, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
He was the head boxing coach at the Eddie Heredia Boxing Club where he worked for 10 years as an employee for the Los Angeles County Parks and Recreation Department, authorities said. Authorities said family members of the victim, a girl he coached at the club, reported the allegations to authorities.
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"Our victim in the case happened to meet Mr. Gonzalez at the boxing club," said Lt. Todd Deeds, of the Sheriff's Department. "Over a period of time, lewd acts were committed."
The child started attending the boxing club early last year. She was under the age of 14, and the lewd acts were committed between the first of May and early August 2017, according to the felony complaint. The allegations came to light in December, Deeds said.
Students in the club range in age from 8 to 19 years, according to a spokesman for County Parks and Recreaction.
The other charges against Gonzales are attempted lewd acts on a child, possession or control of child pornography, distribution or showing pornography to a minor and contact with a minor for sex offense.
Investigators suspect there may be multiple youths victimized by Gonzales, and at a news briefing Friday morning urged them to come forward. Deeds said the fact that Gonzales worked at the club for such a long time raised concerns that there might have been previous unreported incidents.
As a skinny but tall and talented 20 year old, Gonzales prevailed in the light flyweight boxing division at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, believed to have been the first time a Mexican-American had won Olympic gold, and it earned him widespread recognition.
In recent years he returned to the public spotlight as a member of the team of veteran Olympians who made public appearances in support of the successful bid by the city of Los Angeles to host the summer games again.
Gonzales appeared in court Wednesday, but did not enter a plea. His arraignment was continued until Jan. 18.
It was not clear if he has yet retained a lawyer. He is being held at the Men's Central Jail in downtown Los Angeles. The bail level for release was set at $575,000.
"The Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation takes these allegations very seriously, both as administrators and as parents," reads a statement issued by the department, Gonzales's employer. "There is zero tolerance for misconduct within our department. We are fully cooperating with the investigation being conducted by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. We place a very high value on the safety of the public, especially children, who participate in our programs and who visit our park facilities. The Department will take appropriate and swift action to ensure the continued protection of all our guests."