Chandler’s former swim coach commits suicide after arrest


August 11 – Former Chandler High swim coach Bob Chen died by suicide on August 8, 48 hours after being arrested in Mesa in connection with a major human trafficking operation in the Valley of the east which led to the arrest of 17 other men.

Chen, who had recently served as a head coach for a program in California, was an assistant coach at Chandler High for three years before becoming head coach in 2020 following the death of former coach Kerry from COVID-19. Croswhite.

Chen was also a longtime coach for the Rio Salado Swim Club, coaching two athletes at this year’s Olympic trials.

Three police agencies confirmed Chen’s arrest, including the Mesa Police Department, the lead agency in the case. Chen was arrested by Scottsdale PD on suspicion of four counts, including attempting to have sex with a 14-year-old girl.

The State Attorney General’s Office, Homeland Security and the Tempe Police were also involved in the “operation to reduce human sex trafficking.”

David Tait, director and owner of the Rio Salado Swim Club, said Chen was arrested Friday afternoon after downloading an “underground” app on his phone used to solicit child prostitutes.

Police said Chen initially asked to meet an underage girl. Upon arriving at the agreed destination, Chen changed her mind and left before meeting her, according to Tait.

On leaving the site, he was pulled over by Scottsdale Police and arrested.

Tait said Chen spent the night in jail and was released on Saturday. He was assigned a parole officer, curfew and ankle monitor and his phone was confiscated by police.

“To my knowledge, there was no bond or bond; he was released on his own,” Tait said. “We wouldn’t have bailed him out.”

A distraught Chen reached out to Patrick Tolson, the director of the Rio Salado development team, after his release from a prepaid phone.

According to Tait, Tolson interviewed Chen, who denied any acts of this nature that took place with swimmers he has trained in the past.

Chen admitted to soliciting prostitutes in the past, but said this was the first time the woman was underage, according to Tait.

“They were looking at each other, but we don’t care,” Tait said. “We will investigate further in case there are other casualties.”

Kristin Adair, who took over from Chen as the club’s head coach, visited Chen’s home before he and Tolson arrived.

Realizing that Chen had become suicidal, she and Chen’s parents removed anything he could use to harm themselves, including his gun.

On Sunday, Chen slipped out of the house unbeknownst to his family and used a set of spare keys to access his car. He then proceeded to the C2 Tactical Gun Range in Tempe, where he rented a weapon and used it on himself.

“It was our plan on Monday to contact a lawyer and get in touch with USA Swimming Safe Sport, but he ended up taking his own life on Sunday afternoon,” Tait said. “Our first reaction was to protect the children and to help them.

“I sent an email Sunday night explaining that Bob had committed suicide. We did not disclose these other details because we wanted parents to be able to talk to their children before they went to the hospital. school.

“On Monday we lined up qualified therapists and then on Tuesday we had a meeting with the parents where we shared the details in an open, honest and transparent manner so that everyone could take the information and share it with their children. the best possible way. “

Tait added that he and the other Rio Salado coaches wanted to pass the information on to parents to identify other children who may have been injured.

“We don’t think there were any other children, we have no reason to believe there were, but if there were, we wanted to know who they are and bring them the appropriate support, ”he said.

Chandler Unified School District spokesperson Terry Locke said the district was made aware of the charges against Chen on Tuesday. He was not employed by the district at the time of his arrest.

Jim Culver, Chandler’s athletic director, informed swimmers at the school of his death Monday morning. He was unaware of the charges against the former coach at the time.

“We had a meeting this morning with our swimmers and staff on campus to share the sad news,” Culver said. “Our counselors and the school administration were present as well as the supervisory staff.”

Chen’s death rocked the community of Chandler High, which was still in shock after the loss of Croswhite last year. The school’s aquatic complex was named in his honor in December to celebrate his legacy at the school.

That same month, Chandler’s swimmer Brisa Vasquez lost both parents within hours of the virus. Tony and Lisa Vasquez were part of the team’s booster club.

Tait said that while Chen has enjoyed success as a coach at different levels, there may never be a time when his legacy can be discussed.

“I told parents that choices have consequences,” Tait said. “One of Bob’s consequences here is for this information to come out. We’re going to do the right thing with this information. It comes before any discussion of Bob’s reputation or legacy.

“Children come first, and we will protect children first. That is our singular focus at the moment.”

Do you have an interesting story? Contact Zach Alvira at (480) 898-5630 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @ZachAlvira.

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