SPRING HILL, Tenn. (WKRN) — Concerning new details discovered in a human trafficking operation out of Spring Hill. Drugs and a gun were among the items recovered in the sting, that also put a local pastor in the spotlight.
One of the 18 suspects arrested over the weekend is Matthew Brewer, a youth pastor and chaplain within the Tennessee National Guard, according to Spring Hill police.
“He’s a trusted figure,” Lieutenant Justin Whitwell told News 2.
A minister of students, the 47-year-old from Centerville arrested for solicitation of a minor was listed as the youth pastor on the Fairfield Baptist Church website.
“It’s a big concern. This guy is dealing with our juveniles every day or every Sunday.”
Lt. Whitwell says it’s disheartening, as Brewer is also a military official.
“It’s a blemish on our armed services. He’s a trusted person within the community and he goes and betrays the trust of his community and here locally in Middle Tennessee.”
Brewer is one of 18 men Whitwell says were intentionally seeking out sexual activity from a 16-year-old girl in Spring Hill. Lt. Whitwell says the ads were posted online on websites one would have to seek out. The suspects went to meet an underage teen at a local hotel, but instead an undercover officer was inside.
Thirteen were arrested for patronizing prostitution from a minor and five for soliciting. The suspects are from all over the southeast, from Louisiana to Florida.
“Chattanooga, they come from all over, but we have our local ones here that also answered the ad,” said Lt. Whitwell.
The hotel room staged with video cameras so the suspects can be prosecuted at the highest charge.
“It is a local establishment here in Spring Hill, and they set up all types of equipment in order to document the investigation.”
A Maury County businessman was also among those busted. Lt. Whitwell said, “That is not something we want to see in our community.”
He added that several of the suspects are also repeat offenders.
“We don’t know how many times they’ve done this without being caught.”
However, efforts from Spring Hill Police along with TBI, FBI, Homeland Security and the 22nd District Attorney’s office will be back.
“It’s an ongoing problem that we are trying to eradicate here locally and other jurisdictions. They do these types of operations all the time, so we know we are going to eventually catch you. If you keep doing this, we are going to catch you.”
News 2 reached out to the Hickman County church for comment. They have since removed Brewer’s photo from their website. Their statement reads:
“Our Fairfield Baptist Church family was shocked and saddened with the situation this past weekend involving our youth minister. We are prepared to work with law enforcement if asked and, like many others, are hoping to receive information from law enforcement that will help us better understand all the details.
The content of what was shared with us is not aligned with our Biblical values. We met with our church family Sunday to share what little we knew, and our youth minister has been suspended indefinitely from his duties and the church campus pending court proceedings.
We ask that people would pray for the Brewer family and the church family and anyone else involved as we work through what’s happened.”
A Tennessee military representative sent the following statement to News 2:
“The Tennessee Military Department is aware of the recent arrest of a Tennessee National Guardsman and are fully supporting and assisting civil law enforcement as they conduct their investigation. The charges made in this incident do not reflect or meet the standards of the Tennessee National Guard or the Army Values.”