(Omaha, NE) -- A man who worked as a security guard at an Omaha high school is behind bars, accused of sexually assaulting a child.
According to court documents filed earlier this month, 52 year old Ronald Powell is charged with two counts of felony first-degree sexual assault of a child.
The charges against Powell allege that he sexually assaulted a 15 year old girl back in 2015 while he was working as a security guard at Omaha North High School. The victim told detectives that the assaults lasted into 2017. The charges came after the girl, now attending college in another state, came forward in December 2019 and led investigators to evidence of the encounters in December 2020, the documents state. Omaha Police say due to the trauma, the victim reported she was hesitant to come forth but was doing so because she felt that Powell might have also victimized others.
Powell was originally hired by OPS in December 2014 as a coach, and then became a full-time security guard at Omaha North the following March. According to court documents, an OPS official said Powell was fired in August 2016 after repeated violations of the school district’s policy on student interactions and instances of “poor judgment,” such as taking photographs with students and providing his cell number to two females students. Still, he did volunteer to coach girls basketball through Omaha Bryan High School as late as January 2020. OPD says staff at Bryan were made aware of the case against Powell and he was immediately released from coaching. He was not a paid staff member at Bryan.
District leaders said “he would attempt to counsel students who were having personal problems, which is not within the scope of his job description,” court documents state. A school district report also identified two female students Powell had “inappropriate relationships with,” and that both students had “corroborated these unwanted advances.” One of the alleged victims said in an interview with authorities in November 2019 that she’d had what she thought was a consensual committed relationship with Powell, and that at one time he had helped her get an abortion.
She told authorities that she lost her virginity to Powell after an escalating relationship with him starting in October 2015, the documents state. She told investigators that the two of them would regularly meet in a “book closet” — which was reportedly locked and only accessible by staff — to talk and kiss, and that those encounters led to further sexual activity just before she turned 16.
After she turned 16, she said, Powell reserved hotel rooms for them to meet and have sex in, telling her she deserved better than the closet. Court documents state that she told authorities that she got pregnant in April 2017 and that Powell took her to Planned Parenthood for an abortion, pretending to be her father in order to obtain an abortion pill for the girl.
She said she stayed silent about the relationship until she was in college because “she felt responsible for protecting Powell and she felt she was in a legitimate healthy relationship that she was committed to,” court documents state. Later, she said, she realized that the experience robbed her of her high school experiences; still affected by the ordeal, she said she wanted to “make sure he does not do this to any other young girls.”
The case was put on pause when the alleged victim was unable to participate in the investigation after authorities asked her to accompany them to the book closet to help them search for evidence, the documents state. She reached out about a year after she came forward to help the case move forward, and led authorities to a flag in the closet she said Powell would lay sweatshirts on before they had sex.
When meeting with authorities in January 2021, Powell said he never had inappropriate relationships with any students because he was married at the time. Court documents state that during the course of the conversation with investigators, he admitted to having Facebook conversations with the victim, but denied having a sexual relationship with her or having sex with anyone in the book closet.
Lab analysis of the flag found DNA material from four people, according to the documents. Powell declined to voluntarily take a DNA test at that time, so a warrant was issued for the test. Lab results did not exclude him as a “contributor to the DNA profile” collected in evidence, the court documents state.
During the investigation, police say detectives learned that Powell would groom young girls by promising to help them get a college scholarship. OPD says they believe that Powell may have used the same tactic to get other young girls' phone numbers and eventually sexually assault them. The Omaha Police say they have reason to believe that there may be other victims who have not come forward.
OPD says they understand that Reporting a sexual assault can be a traumatic experience and recognize the emotional hardship and courage of coming forward. You can report any incident of sexual assault to police by calling 911, regardless of how long ago it happened.
(Photo by WOWT 6 News)