Man arrested, accused of touching himself at Memphis church

Man arrested, accused of touching himself at Memphis church
St. John offers food and worship services to the indigent. (Photo Source: WMC Action News 5)
St. John offers food and worship services to the indigent. (Photo Source: WMC Action News 5)

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - A violent sex offender is back behind bars after police say he flashed a young woman inside a Memphis church.

Police say Willie Edwards exposed and starting touching himself in front of a young volunteer at St. John United Methodist Church on Peabody Avenue on Jan. 27.

"I would've beat the daylights out of him," church member Samuel Crews said. "I've got three daughters I raised."

Police say the female victim reported the incident to the church. The church then told Edwards he could not return to the property.

Tennessee Bureau of Investigation records show that this is not Edwards first run in with sexual misconduct. He's listed as a violent sex offender and has previous charges in 2002 and 1989.

St. John's church is a sanctuary for people looking for a helping hand.

"I don't understand how a fellow like that's brain thinks," Crews said. "He comes up here to get a freebie meal and coffee."

Edwards was living at Barron Heights Transitional Center, which helps military veterans transition back into society. The center said it was not aware of the case.

Edwards appeared in court Tuesday. He's in jail on a $10,000 bond.

Crews hopes the incident does not reflect poorly on St. John's church.

"The people here that serve us are nice, and most of the people that come are nice."

St. John's released the following statement in response to the incident:

St. John's has been and will remain a safe place offering the hospitality of the Gospel. We are saddened by the incident that occurred on our campus. While extraordinarily rare, it is serious. We have been and will remain vigilant to provide safe sanctuary to all who come through these doors. We are proud of the victim of the incident and the empowerment she felt to stand up for herself. Our care for her will continue. We also pray for the offender that he find peace and a life of recovery, however his actions on this sacred ground means that he cannot find it here. Our work in servant ministry will continue unabated.

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