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Olympic gold medalist ex-boxer charged with molesting young student at East L.A. boxing club

Olympic gold medalist ex-boxer charged with molesting young student at East L.A. boxing club
Paul Gonzales is accused of committing lewd acts on a child. (Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department)

An Olympic gold medal-winning ex-boxer and youth boxing coach in East Los Angeles allegedly groomed one of his young students and molested her before a family member reported the misconduct last month, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said Friday.

Paul Gonzales, 53, was charged this week with eight felony counts, including four counts of committing lewd acts upon a 13-year-old girl and possession of child pornography.

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Gonzales won a gold medal at the 1984 Olympics. He's been a boxing coach for the past 10 years at the Eddie Heredia Boxing Club, which is operated by the Los Angeles County Parks and Recreation Department.

Gonzales was arrested Dec. 29 and is being held at Men's Central Jail. He is still employed by the county but is no longer being paid, said Terry Kanakri, a spokesman for the parks agency.

The former boxer is being represented by an attorney with the public defender's office, but agency spokeswoman Pamela Johnson said her office would not comment on the case.

Lt. Todd Deeds, with the sheriff's special victims bureau, said the lewd acts involved one girl, who began going to the boxing club as a student in an after-school program early last year. Gonzales befriended the girl, groomed her and entered into a relationship with her, Deeds said.

The girl was molested between May 1 and Aug. 9 of last year, according to the felony complaint.

Deeds said he could not answer questions about whether the alleged molestation occurred at the boxing club. He also declined to provide information about whether Gonzales was allowed to spend time alone with his students.

One of the girl's family members reported the misconduct last month, Deeds said.

Deeds said detectives have no specific information that Gonzales molested any other children, but given his long tenure as a youth coach, they believe more victims may come forward.

"We are very concerned that there are more victims out there," Deeds said.

A woman who answered the door Friday at an address listed for Gonzales in Montebello told a Times reporter no comment.

Gonzales coached youths aged 8 to 19 years old, Deeds said. At any given time there are 40 boys and 15 girls enrolled in the boxing club's programs, he said.

Deeds said investigators are also looking into whether any adults at the club knew about the acts Gonzales is accused of or protected him.

Kanakri, the county parks and recreation department spokesman, said Gonzales was a full-time employee who coached boys and girls at the center every day. Gonzales was hired in 2007.

The club has an open-air facade along a busy street, where anyone including adults can visit to train in personal fitness and boxing.

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Kanakri said he did not know whether there are any county policies against employees fraternizing or having sexual relationships with students, or if Gonzales would have been trained in such a rule, but that he would look into the question.

"Our employees are to adhere to all laws, including those affecting relationships with minors," he said. "In addition to adherence to the law, our employees are expected to maintain professional boundaries, both with staff and the general public."

At least two employees are present at the gym during working hours, Kanakri said. Some of the youths travel for local tournaments, but are accompanied by their parents. Kanakri said he did not have information about whether Gonzales traveled on any of those trips.

Anyone with information about Gonzales is asked to contact the 24-hour tip line operated by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's special victims bureau at (877) 710-5273.

Twitter: @mayalau

UPDATES:

1:15 p.m.: This post was updated with comments from Kanakri.

This article was originally published at 12:15 p.m.

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