SPRING HILL, Tenn. (WKRN) – Drugs and a gun were among the items recovered in a human trafficking operation that has put a Tennessee pastor in the spotlight.
Matthew Brewer, a youth pastor for a local church and chaplain in the Tennessee National Guard, was one of 18 suspects arrested over the weekend, according to Spring Hill police.
“He’s a trusted figure,” Lt. Justin Whitwell told WKRN.
A minister to students, the 47-year-old from Centerville was arrested for solicitation of a minor.
“It’s a big concern,” Whitwell said. “This guy is dealing with our juveniles every day or every Sunday.”
Whitwell said it’s disheartening since Brewer is also a military official.
“It’s a blemish on our armed services,” he said. “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 said were seeking to engage in sexual activity with a 16-year-old girl in Spring Hill. Whitwell said ads were posted online on websites that one would have to seek out. The suspects went to a local hotel expecting to meet an underage teen, but instead, an undercover officer was inside.
Thirteen were arrested for patronizing prostitution from a minor and five for soliciting. The suspects are from across 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 Whitwell.
The hotel room was staged with video cameras so the suspects could be prosecuted at the highest level.
“It is a local establishment here in Spring Hill, and they set up all types of equipment in order to document the investigation,” Whitwell said.
A Maury County businessman was also among those arrested. “That is not something we want to see in our community,” Whitwell said.
He added that several of the suspects are repeat offenders.
“We don’t know how many times they’ve done this without being caught,” he said. “It’s an ongoing problem that we are trying to eradicate here locally and in 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.”
Fairfield Baptist Church, in Hickman County, where Brewer was listed as a youth pastor, issued a statement that read:
“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.”Fairfield Baptist Church
The church has since removed Brewer’s photo from its website.
A Tennessee military representative also issued a statement to WKRN, saying, “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.”