A Bend gymnastics coach and the founder of Acrovision Sports Center 20 years ago has been arrested on sex abuse and other charges, accused of abusing two girls during a New Year’s Eve “sleepover party,” police said Friday. They also asked to hear from any other possible victims or witnesses.
Sgt. Nick Parker said police began investigating on Jan. 1 a report of sex abuse involving an 8-year-old girl during the “sleepover party” that brought 51 children to the facility at 63255 Jamison Road. The suspect was identified as the co-owner of the business, Richard Bridgeman Gustafson, 49, of Bend.
A second alleged victim, a 9-year-old girl, was identified during the investigation, Parker said.
Police investigators contacted Gustafson at the business on Wednesday and he was arrested on two counts of first-degree sexual abuse.
Jail records showed Gustafson was booked into the Deschutes County Jail on Wednesday night. The charges involving Gustafson listed Friday on the jail records also included first-degree sexual penetration, two counts of coercion and second-degree "attempt to commit a crime." It said four of the charges were pending but the two coercion charges were listed as “not filed.“ He was being held on $320,000 bail.
Parker said Bend police asked anyone with information that could help in the investigation to contact Detective Tom Russell at (541) 322-2986 or Deschutes County dispatchers at (541) 693-6911.
According to the company's Website, Gustafson, also a martial arts instructor, began Acrovision 20 years ago and it moved to its current location in 1998, with over 400 students taking classes there.
Gustafson, who began gymnastics training at age 6 and tae kwon do training at 13, won the Oregon all-around high school gymnastics title in 1982 and received a first-degree black belt the following year. He is a 1988 University of Oregon graduate, in fitness management, and during his time in college served as boys' gymnastics director and women's coach at the National Academy of Artistic Gymnastics.
Current Acrovision co-owner Mohini Bhardwaj Barry issued a statement Friday that reads, in full:
"On Wednesday, January 8, Acrovision Sports Center founder and co-owner Rich Gustafson was placed under arrest and accused of sexual abuse related to an alleged incident that occurred at Acrovision Sports Center.
"The charges brought against Rich came as a complete surprise to the ownership, staff, parents, and athletes who are all part of the Acrovision family. These charges are not to be taken lightly, and there is a legal process that is already underway to address them. We are fully cooperating with the investigation and are confident that the justice system will resolve this matter in due course.
"Over the course of the past 20 years, literally thousands of athletes have relied on Acrovision Sports Center to help them achieve their goals, realize their full potential, and learn valuable life skills and lessons through sport.
"Our number one priority is and always has been the safety and well being of our athletes. We hold ourselves accountable to a set of principles that have guided Acrovision since the company’s founding 20 years ago, we have a comprehensive interview and application process, and all Acrovision staff who interact with athletes in the course of their work, including owners, undergo thorough background checks.
"While the legal system takes its course regarding the matter at hand, we remain one hundred percent committed to providing athletes with a safe, competitive, and positive experience. We are taking immediate action to make sure that Acrovision continues to provide competitive training to athletes in In a safe and secure environment."