Kalamazoo pastor paid teenage boys to have sex with his wife, police say

The Rev. Stricjavvar “Strick” Strickland, of Kalamazoo’s Second Baptist Church, is accused of sexually assaulting four boys under the age of 18 between the years of 2015-2018. In this MLive file photo, Strickland speaks during a meeting at Hills Law Offices Michigan in Kalamazoo, Michigan on Wednesday, February 6, 2019.

KALAMAZOO, MI — A Kalamazoo pastor accused of sexually assaulting four male victims between the ages of 15 and 17 is said to have paid the children to have sex with his wife while he watched.

The Rev. Stricjavvar “Strick” Strickland, of Kalamazoo’s Second Baptist Church, has been charged with 11 felonies connected to alleged incidents spanning from Aug. 1, 2015- Aug. 31, 2018, according to a probable cause affidavit filed last week in Kalamazoo County District Court.

A warrant for Strickland’s arrest was issued Aug. 21. As of Tuesday, Aug. 25, the pastor was yet to turn himself in. His attorney, Michael Hills, told MLive early Tuesday, that the two were making arrangements for the pastor to turn himself in.

“It has been two years since these allegations first came forward and Pastor Strickland has remained in contact and available. He is not running from this,” Hills said. “Pastor Strickland remains ready to turn himself in and deal with these charges accordingly.”

Strickland, 37, faces two counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct on a student, another on a person age 13-15 and another by force or coercion, according to court records. He also faces four counts of human trafficking of a minor for commercial sexual activity and three counts of child sexually abusive activity.

If convicted, the pastor faces a potential penalty of 15 years in prison on each of the first four charges, and 20 years on each of the other seven charges, according to his warrant.

In a bond recommendation, filed with the court along with the arrest affidavit, Kalamazoo County Assistant Prosecutor Christin J. Mehrtens-Carlin recommends the court not allow the pastor to have any contact with the four alleged victims, his wife Jazmonique Strickland, or anyone under the age of 18.

“Per the reports, the defendant and his wife would use their employment at Phoenix High School (in Kalamazoo) and to some extent, the defendant would use his work as a pastor, to find male teens to engage in sexual activity with the wife, while the defendant watched and masturbated,” Mehrtens-Carlin writes in her bond recommendation.

The four said to be victims in the case ranged in age from 15-17 when the alleged acts occurred, she wrote.

Mehrtens-Carlin, who is recommending a cash or surety bond of $500,000 in the case, said it is also alleged that Strickland engaged in similar behavior with his ex-wife years ago while living in Mississippi.

Strickland, when reached by MLive Tuesday, called the charges “absolutely preposterous” and said he still had no information regarding the specifics of the allegations levied against him.

“All I can say for now is that we are prepared for this fight,” the pastor said. “God will prevail.”

Michigan State Police Detective Sgt. Scott Ernestes wrote about the specifics of the allegations in the probable cause affidavit, which was filed Aug. 18.

Ernestes wrote in the affidavit that he was first contacted in August 2018 by two juveniles and one of their fathers referencing a potential sexual assault that occurred during the years 2015-18.

At that point, an investigation began, Ernestes wrote.

The two juveniles told Ernestes, according to the affidavit, that both of them were students at Phoenix High School during the 2017-18 school year when they met the couple. Jazmonique Strickland, according to the affidavit, was a secretary at the school.

Both of the boys, who turned 17 during that school year, were alleged to have been paid $100 each to have sex with Jazmonique Strickland on separate occasions while her husband watched, the affidavit states. The pastor is also alleged to have paid the children each $100 so he could watch his wife perform oral sex on them.

Additional money was allegedly given to one of the boys to text nude photos to the pastor, the affidavit states. The pastor also allegedly sexually assaulted one of the boys and then gave him money after the boy told him to stop.

A third victim, interviewed in September 2018, told the detective he was 16 years old in 2015 when he was first asked to send the reverend nude photos in exchange for money.

Later, when the boy was 17, Strickland coerced the child into allowing him to perform oral sex on the boy, according to the detective’s affidavit. In exchange, Strickland allowed the boy to use the pastor’s vehicle, the affidavit alleges.

Ernestes states he interviewed a fourth victim in February 2019. The victim told the detective he was 15 years old in August 2015, when he was paid $200 by Strickland to have sex with the pastor’s wife on a couch in the couple’s basement. According to Ernestes’ report, the victim claimed this type of incident happened on other occasions during 2015 and 2016 as well.

In February 2019, five days after Ernestes interviewed the fourth individual, Hills and Strickland hosted a press conference where the two denied any wrongdoing had occurred whatsoever.

In a separate Kalamazoo County court case, Strickland faces an assault charge stemming from an incident with a former church deacon that occurred at the Second Baptist Church in December 2019. That misdemeanor case is currently set for trial beginning Sept. 30 in Kalamazoo County District Court.

Strickland has been pastor at Second Baptist Church in Kalamazoo since 2012. He also previously served as the NAACP Kalamazoo Chapter president from 2016-18.

There are no charges pending against Jazmonique Strickland at this time.

Kenosha Police Chief Blames Protesters for Their Own Deaths, Defends Vigilante Groups

Kenosha Police Chief Daniel Miskinis at a press conference on Wednesday.

On Wednesday, 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse was arrested in Illinois on charges of first-degree murder after allegedly shooting and killing two protesters the night before during protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in response to the shooting of Jacob Blake earlier this week.

During the Kenosha Police Department’s first press conference in response to the Blake shooting and subsequent protests, Chief Daniel Miskinis blamed the unidentified victims in Tuesday night’s shooting for their own deaths, saying the violence was the result of the “persons” involved violating curfew:

Persons who were out after the curfew became engaged in some type of disturbance, and persons were shot. Everybody involved was out after the curfew. I’m not going to make a great deal of that, but the point is the curfew is in place to protect. Had persons not been out involved in violation of that, perhaps the situation that unfolded would not have happened.

The Recount@therecountKenosha Police Chief Miskinis responds to the murder of two protestors by saying it wouldn’t have happened if people weren’t out after curfew: “I’m not gonna make a great deal of it, BUT …”

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“It is the persons who were involved after the legal time, involved in illegal activity, that brought violence to this community,” Miskinis added later, seeming to blame protesters who were on the streets because a still-unnamed member of Miskinis’ department shot Blake seven times in the back as his children watched.

Miskinis would not give the names of the “persons” who were the victims of Wednesday’s murders, but did say they were “a 26-year-old Silver Lake resident and a 36-year-old Kenosha resident.”

In describing the shooting of two protesters, Miskinis also declined to call it a homicide and instead referred to it by various euphemisms often used to describe killings by a police officer, which Rittenhouse is not. He said that the shooter “was involved in the use of firearms to resolve whatever conflict was in place” and that there was a “disturbance that led to the use of deadly force.”

Additionally, Miskinis refused to comment on the video of Blake’s shooting, but offered that there may have been a reasonable explanation for the man being shot seven times in the back, which has reportedly left him paralyzed and in critical condition. (The officer has been put on administrative leave and has not been fired or arrested.)

“I’m not going to address that because it is one snippet of a very large situation and much as what’s happened across this nation for a long period of time, it’s focused on what you see in this much of an incident,” Miskinis said, apparently alluding to other police shootings of unarmed Black men. “It’s unfair to everybody involved, whether you’re the person using force or the person being arrested that the picture isn’t painted.”

Video taken on Tuesday before the shooting showed Rittenhouse gathered with what appeared to be members of armed militia groups. Those vigilante groups had gathered on Tuesday night, it was reported by CNN and the Verge, in response to calls on Facebook for “any patriots willing to take up arms and defend our city tonight from the evil thugs.”

When asked about the vigilante groups, Miskinis defended them as civilians out to protect property and “exercise their constitutional right.”

“Across this nation there have been armed civilians who have come out to exercise their constitutional right and to potentially protect property,” he said. “Am I aware that groups exist? Yes, but they weren’t invited to come.”

Miskinis’ views of the gathering of vigilante groups that reportedly led to the killing of two local men appears to be very much in line with those of his department. Before the shooting, officers in armored vehicles could be seen giving water to armed men gathered with the alleged shooter and telling them, “We appreciate you guys, we really do.” After the killings, the alleged shooter walked slowly past a series of police vehicles with his arms raised and was allowed to simply walk away. (It’s not yet clear what the officers knew about the shooting at the time, but the shots were audible in nearby footage.)

When asked why his officers had given the armed men water and thanked them, Miskinis said, “Our deputies would toss a water to anybody” and “You’re asking me to tell you what one person did. I can’t tell you that.” In explaining why his officers were able to show such restraint with Tuesday’s shooter, he blamed the “high stress” situation on the scene and possible “tunnel vision” on the part of his officers.

“I’m not making an excuse. I’m just telling you from personal experience what could have done that,” he said.

Toward the end of his comments, Miskinis was asked about the vigilante groups and again compared them to the protesters who had violated curfew, saying both sides were to blame.

“It’s no different than those on the protesters’ side who are walking around armed and those who are counterprotesters, or those who are just witnessing, to be armed, so I’m not going to address any more issues relative to that,” he said.

When asked if he wanted the vigilante groups to be present again after Wednesday night’s curfew, Miskinis refused to reply.

“I just said I’m not going to answer any more questions,” he said.

When asked again, he again refused to say. “I’m done talking about that,” Miskinis said.

At the end of the press conference, Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian clarified whether the city wanted armed vigilante groups patrolling the street after the killing of two civilians. “No, I don’t need more guns on the street in the community,” he said.