STOCKTON -- A Stockton pastor has been arrested on suspicion of child molestation, police said Wednesday.
Investigators say two girls, ages 12 and 15, reported on May 14 that they had been molested by their pastor, 57-year-old Bruce Echavarre. Echavarre had also been a volunteer police chaplain until his arrest.
"They're sisters and they're apparently my cousins, but I don't know any family that would do this to their own," said his son, Ray Echavarre.
Bruce Echavarre was booked into jail on child molestation charges. His bail is set at $2.7 million.
"It hurts us a lot because the family that did accuse him, we gave them everything. We went out on a limb and helped them," Ray Echavarre told FOX40. "They're apparently related to us from our grandma's side, and so my dad went out of his way by helping them get a house, helping them get a van, helping them get a cell phone plan. He even helped the oldest daughter sell lemonade over there at Victory Park."
Ray Echavarre says things changed last Wednesday when the two girls got into a fight and their mother texted his father to come over and help quiet it down. Bruce Echavarre was arrested later that night.
According to police, the sisters had come to them two days prior with their allegations against the retired U.S. Army Master Sergeant.
Bruce Echavarre dedicated his life to being one of the ordained pastors of the United Church of the Living God and to serving as a Stockton Police Department chaplain. His fellow chaplains were shocked to learn of his arrest.
"I keep going back in my mind to think about anything I may have missed. But, again, he had a very strong faith and was a very positive individual, and nothing that I saw gave me any kind of warning," said Jesse Kenyon, senior chaplain with the Stockon Police Department.
Bruce Echavarre's neighbors felt the same way.
"He looked like a nice guy. But you see people and you don't know exactly what's up," said Gonzalo Irigoyen, who lives one house away.
Ray Echavarre says he's tormented by the suspicious thoughts and glances now aimed at his father and his family -- all he believes are without good reason.
"That is out of his character and there's no way he'd do something like this," he said. "He is innocent. He's there for the wrong reason and that the only thing we can do is pray and let God take it from here."
Stockton police chaplains go through extensive background checks. Bruce Echavarre has served as a chaplain since the fall of 2014 and the department says there was nothing in his evaluations that raised concern.
He has been relieved of his police duties.
Investigators are now looking for anyone else who was a possible victim. Those with information are urged to contact the Stockton Police Department investigations division at (209) 937-8323. Callers can remain anonymous by contacting Crime Stoppers at (209) 946-0600.