VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Jim Booker is trying to wrap his head around the news of his neighbor, John Blanchard, arrested during a two-day sting operation in Chesterfield County last week regarding prostitution solicitation.
“We’ve shared pleasantries [and] we have discussed pastoring during the pandemic,” Booker told News 3. “This is a shock to me because I know him fairly well. He’s never given me any indication over the years that I’ve known him that he would be mixed up in anything like this.”
Blanchard serves as the pastor of Rock Church in Virginia Beach.
News 3 was the first to tell you about Blanchard’s arrest. Blanchard faces charges including felony solicitation of prostitution and use of a vehicle to promote prostitution.
Chesterfield County Police told News 3 the sting took place October 28-29.
Blanchard can be seen in a video streamed live on the church's YouTube page dated Sunday, October 31.
“They reached out and were trying to coordinate an opportunity to have sex with a minor,” Maj. Mike Louth with Chesterfield County Police Dept. said.
According to Louth, when suspects came to the arranged location, they were met by police and arrested.
Blanchard is one of 17 men from Virginia and Maryland facing charges from this operation.
“For many of them, they got the surprise of their life,” Louth said. “Anyone that tries to prey on the innocence of a child or a minor here in Chesterfield County, we’re going to hold you accountable.”
Monday evening, News 3 tried contacting Blanchard directly but were unable to reach him.
As for Booker, he said he will pray for Blanchard and this situation.
“I feel sad and sorry for him,” Booker said. “I know evil is always present and always trying to take down those who claim Jesus Christ. I’m going to pray for him and be there for him. If he needs someone to talk to, I’m going to be there to talk to him.”
News 3 also reached out to Rock Church International Monday afternoon. In a statement, church officials told News 3, “At this time, we do not have enough information to make a comment.”
WTVR CBS 6 contributed to this report.