After receiving a call about a patient having a seizure at a self-proclaimed church, Griffin Firefighters in Griffin, GA, arrived on the scene and made a grim discovery. Locked in the church’s basement, on the 100 block of Valley Rd, firefighters found as many as eight individuals behind a deadbolted basement door.
The victims were not easily accessible. Authorities said to reach the victims, fire crews and emergency medical services (EMS) had to climb through a window in the basement to get to the people. Up to 8 mentally and physically disabled people had been locked in the basement by the pastor and his wife.
After searching the location, police find more incriminating evidence. According to authorities, ‘Pastor’ Curtis Keith Bankston and his wife, Sophia Simms-Bankston, managed to control the individual’s finances, benefits, and medical care. On multiple occasions, investigators claimed Bankston and his wife used their authority as caregivers to deny patients medical services and care.
“It is both frightening and disgusting to see the degree to which these individuals have been taken advantage of by people who were in a position of trust,” the City of Griffin Police Department told FOX 5 in a statement.
Bankston is now in police custody at the Spalding County Jail. Officials are expected to file charges against Bankston’s wife and warned that more charges would come for the couple.
Unfortunately, abuse of persons with disabilities is common. According to disabilityjustice.org, those who disabilities are more likely to be abused than those who are not impaired. They are four to ten times more likely to be abused than others. The website also stated that disabled people are more frequently abused, abused for more extended periods, more likely to be abused by someone they know, and less likely to access the justice system.
photo courtesy of Fox 5 Atlanta