KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — A Kalamazoo pastor at the center of a Michigan State Police sex crime investigation on Wednesday denied the allegations during a press conference at his attorney’s office.
“It is not true,” Rev. Strick Strickland said at his lawyer’s prompting. “I think I’ve said that a couple of times already.”
Strickland said he and the attorneys haven’t gotten any information from MSP; he said everything they have learned is from the media.
“I was on the phone with the state police the day of the raid (at the Strickland home) and they were telling me they couldn’t tell me anything, and I got a call from one of you all on the other end telling me everything,” Strickland told reporters. “But they were in my house telling me they couldn’t tell me anything.”
The Kalamazoo County prosecutor has sent the case involving Strickland and his wife back to MSP for further investigation, Strickland’s attorney Mike Hills said. The attorney for Strickland’s wife Jazmonique Strickland said Prosecutor Jeff Getting was “treading lightly” and that he didn’t want to “go off half-cocked” in a case involving a well-known member of the community.
Getting refused to confirm to Target 8 that he sent the case back to state police, but said it’s common for him to ask police for additional investigation and not indicative of the strength of a case.
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MSP said last week that a four-month investigation had found the Stricklands paid four teens, one of whom was 14 at the time, to engage in sexual acts at their Kalamazoo home, which is owned by the church where Rev. Strickland preaches. After a Target 8 report exposed the investigation, a fifth person came forward with a similar allegation. MSP asked any other potential victims to call the Paw Paw Post at 269.657.5551.
Defense attorney Hills said state police are making public statements about the case because they’re “shaking the bush” to try to get more people to come forward, a sign that the alleged victims they have identified are not credible. Hills noted that the young people with whom Strickland works are often troubled and may have an ax to grind against the pastor or something to gain by working with police.
When asked if he had ever given money to teenagers, Strickland responded that he has given money to help impoverished kids and adults alike in his role as pastor.
“Yes, we do that as the word of God instructs us to do,” Strickland said at the news conference. “We share our resources. We exercise good stewardship and we do the best we can to help as many people as we can along the way. And it’s very unfortunate that that is being seen as something negative.”
In a phone conversation with Target 8 last week, Strickland called the allegations “absolutely 100 percent false.” At the news conference, Jazmonique Strickland’s attorney said she also denied all the allegations that have been reported.
Rev. Strickland, also the former head of the local chapter of the NAACP, is still preaching at Second Baptist Church on North Rose Street. Jazmonique Strickland resigned from her job as a paraprofessional at a Kalamazoo high school after a search warrant was executed at the couple’s home last fall.
Rev. Strickland said the situation has been difficult for his family, particularly on his eight children. e said their dog was “stolen” by MSP during the search of his home, taking away comfort from his children.