A Lowell, Massachusetts police officer is facing charges that he raped a 16-year-old girl who was homeless and addicted to heroin while he was on duty working for the city.
Kevin Garneau, 49, of Pelham, New Hampshire, was arraigned Thursday in Middlesex Superior Court and pleaded not guilty to two counts of rape.
The alleged sexual assaults happened in 2016 while he was working as a police officer in Lowell as part of a community outreach group to provide assistance to homeless individuals, including those with substance abuse issues, the Middlesex District Attorney's Office said. The victim was living in a tent in an area of Lowell set up to provide shelter to members of the city's homeless population.
Prosecutors said Garneau, a 19-year department veteran, allegedly entered the teen's tent and told her there were warrants out for her arrest, but in exchange for her providing sexual services he would not arrest her. He then allegedly sexually assaulted the victim several more times in the months following the initial assault.
Lowell police learned of the allegations in January of 2019 and immediately launched an investigation. They said he has been placed on unpaid administrative leave pending the outcome of the criminal investigation.
"I'm astonished and deeply disappointed," Lowell Police Superintendent Raymond Kelly Richardson said in a statement. "I acted as soon as we were made aware of these allegations. This is not what the men and women of the Lowell PD represent. They police legally, respectfully and compassionately."
Garneau's attorney, Robert Normandin, said his client denies the charges.
"I don't believe he has it in him to hurt anybody," said one woman who did not want to be identified by name.
She said Garneau has been a leader in the community, helping countless people in need, including her daughter, an addict.
"I would call him on a drop of a dime," she said. "It didn't matter what time of day, Kevin would be there. He would answer his phone without hesitation. He would go look for her."
Garneau was indicted earlier this week and arraigned Thursday in Middlesex Superior Court. He was released on personal recognizance bail and ordered to wear a GPS monitoring device and to stay away from the victim. He is scheduled to return to court on July 23.