Salem

Police source: School started own investigation into coach before alerting police

Police source: School started own investigation into coach before alerting police »Play Video
Emrance Berger mug shot from Polk County Jail.

WEST SALEM, Ore. – The school where a girls’ basketball coach is accused of sexually abusing a 15-year-old girl began its own investigation before involving law enforcement, according to a police source.

Police have arrested 30-year-old West Salem High School coach Emrance Berger. He is charged with sex abuse and sodomy. Police said they are concerned there may be more victims.

Investigators first learned about Berger and the allegations against him when the now 16-year-old girl confided in her parents about the alleged sex abuse.

It was her parents who turned to the West Salem High School resource police officer and detectives immediately got involved.

That was Tuesday but a police source said they've learned the school had its suspicions about Berger as early as a week ago.

Berger is the JV girls’ basketball coach at the school and an assistant coach for the girls’ varsity basketball team.

Investigators said the alleged sex abuse took place over three months early last year. It involved one of the girls who played basketball.

Salem police Lt. Steve Birr said investigators have been talking with witnesses.

"Someone reported seeing (Berger and the victim) hold hands on a basketball trip," said Birr.

The Oregon Department of Human Services confirmed Berger is a manager with the Office of Payment Accuracy and Recovery. The state says he will be put on administrative leave. He’s already on leave with West Salem High.

On Wednesday, the school district spokeswoman didn’t supply any other information about when they first had suspicions about Berger and began looking into him. Katie Wallace said Berger was first hired by the district in a part-time capacity as a coach in 2012. She said the district put him on leave when it learned of his arrest.

KATU On Your Side Investigator Anna Canzano has filed a public records request with the district for any correspondence between school officials regarding Berger and these allegations.

According to Berger's LinkedIn profile, he's been an assistant basketball coach at West Salem High for 11 years since June 2002. He also had a Twitter handle and a Facebook page and was an administrator on a West Salem Basketball group page until Wednesday evening. As KATU's reports went to air, his profile on most of these social media sites was removed.

A police source told Canzano before Berger voluntarily went to the police station to be interviewed, he wanted to call his mother, and asked investigators if it was OK if she came with him.

Lt. Birr said Berger was "a very strange individual in my opinion. Not a whole lot of emotion considering the seriousness of the offense he's accused of. He also seemed somewhat controlling. At one point he asked the detective by first name for some water, which seemed kind of nonchalant."

Birr would not say whether Berger had confessed to the allegations.