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South Bend officer facing sex abuse charges suspended without pay

A South Bend police officer accused of statutorily raping a 17-year-old girl has now been put on unpaid leave.

Rico Butler became the second South Bend officer charged with molesting a teenager since 2021 when he was charged with two counts of child seduction earlier this month.

Butler, 27, is accused of having multiple sexual encounters with a 17-year-old girl who attended New Vision Christian Academy where Butler worked part-time as a security guard and basketball coach.

South Bend Police Chief Scott Ruszkowski already suspended Butler when he was formally charged but state law prohibits departments from taking away officers’ pay without board approval.

On Wednesday, the city’s Board of Public Safety unanimously voted to suspend Butler without pay. State law also prohibits the city from firing Butler until his case is decided in court.

Butler has an initial hearing next month and faces between one and five years in prison for each count he's charged with.

A South Bend police spokeswoman said Butler’s off-duty work with New Vision was approved by the department but that he is not formally trained as a School Resource Officer.

Child seduction

According to court documents, the Department of Child services received an anonymous report that Butler was involved in sexual abuse of a 17-year-old girl. Investigators with St. Joseph County's Special Victims Unit then interviewed the girl, one of the girl's friends as well as Butler, according to court documents.

The statements taken allege Butler and the student began messaging on Snapchat in September and eventually the two engaged in sexual activity on multiple occasions throughout the winter. The documents claim Butler told investigators he statutorily raped the girl in his car, in a classroom at the school where the girl went and at her house when her mother wasn’t home.

Marek Mazurek has been with WVPE since April 2023, though he's been in Michiana for most of his life. He has a particular interest in public safety reporting. When he's not on the radio, Marek enjoys getting way too into Notre Dame football and reading about medieval English history.