Former SoCal Boy Scout details alleged abuse from assistant scoutmaster, says bankruptcy opens old wounds

Rob McMillan Image
Wednesday, February 19, 2020
Former SoCal Boy Scout details alleged abuse from assistant scoutmaster
In the wake of the Boy Scouts of America filing for bankruptcy protection, one former Boy Scout from Watts is speaking out about alleged abuse at the hands of his assistant scoutmaster.

In the wake of the Boy Scouts of America filing for bankruptcy protection in what experts are calling a strategic move to allow the organization to carry on, former Boy Scouts in Southern California are speaking out.

For some of the alleged victims, the bankruptcy is reopening old wounds.

Manuel Lemos, a Boy Scout from Watts in the 1970s, said he's endured the pain of abuse for decades.

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"I can't believe it," said Lemos. "That part is stabbing you in the heart."

Lemos filed his lawsuit three weeks ago, alleging sexual assault at the hands of his assistant scoutmaster at the time.

"What happened to me was unbelievable. It happened on the weeklong trips, and those were the ones that really scared me, because he was in my tent every night," Lemos said.

But for the thousands of Boy Scout troops across the country, the big question is what the bankruptcy means for the organization going forward.

"We think we have some great people," said parent Alan Kwasman, whose son is in Troop 90 in Riverside. "We have not had a bad experience."

Kwasman's son joined the Boy Scouts when he was 6 years old. Nine years later, he's about to embark on his Eagle Scout service project.

"It's one of the best things we ever did. We went camping, and I did a lot of projects with him," Kwasman said. "My relationship with my child is much better because of my experience with scouting."

A past scoutmaster in Rancho Cucamonga said he doesn't believe the bankruptcy will disrupt the Boy Scouts at the local level.

"We will still camp every month, hike the Sierras every summer and take the kids skiing when we get the snow," said Mike Flanagan, who is not only a past scoutmaster, but an Eagle Scout himself.

"I'm involved with the Boy Scouts because I believe in the movement. None of that will change," he said.

Still, Flanagan is mindful of all the victims of sexual assault that have come forward.

"They deserve all the help that's out there for them. I'm hoping that this bankruptcy and reorganization will allow the Boy Scouts of America to adequately help all the victims. It's the right thing to do, and as scouts we teach youth to do the right thing.

"I also hope it will leave us with a viable organization when this is all behind us. We do so much good in the community. Many of us volunteers are committed lifers and can't imagine any other organization that does what we do."