WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — A veteran District of Columbia police officer has been arrested on charges that he sexually abused a girl who participated in his church choir, the authorities said.

Wendel Palmer, who joined the department in 1990 and had been assigned to its Sixth District, was arrested Wednesday on a charge of first-degree sexual abuse.

Police say the abuse was reported last March by the accuser’s mother and occurred between 2004 and 2006 when the girl was between 11 and 13 years old.

Palmer, 42, was the choir director at the church where the girl and her family were members, police records say. The girl alleged that much of the abuse occurred at the church during rehearsal breaks, when Palmer would ask that she stay with him in the pastor’s office while the other children were sent to the store. Palmer’s family runs the church, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.

On one occasion, the affidavit says, Wendel began to sexually assault the girl without a condom but stopped after she told him he was hurting her.

Police say the accuser in March picked out Palmer’s picture from a photo array of nine D.C. police officers.

Phone messages left at the church Thursday weren’t immediately returned.

It wasn’t immediately clear if Palmer had a lawyer, and messages left at a listing for Palmer in Prince George’s County weren’t returned Thursday. His commander at the Sixth District, which patrols sections of Northeast and Southeast Washington, didn’t return a call seeking comment.

Palmer has been placed on paid leave pending the outcome of the criminal case.

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(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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