When a Gaston County teenager went missing in 2015, Lowell police officer Paul Blair was assigned to her case.
First he found the 13-year-old, a new court document says, then he began showing up at her home late at night, bringing candy and giving her rides in his patrol car.
Blair, a husband and father, told the girl’s parents he wanted to be their daughter’s mentor. Instead, he initiated “numerous sexual acts” with her in his patrol car while still on duty and wearing his uniform, the court document says.
At 14, she became pregnant with Blair’s child, the lawsuit says. In 2017, the veteran officer pleaded guilty to statutory rape and was sentenced to 12 years in prison.
In a new lawsuit that surfaced in federal court this week, the teen and her mother are seeking damages for what they describe as the physical and emotional damage caused by Blair. They also want to be reimbursed for the costs of first delivering and now raising Blair’s infant son.
The lawsuit also names Lowell police Chief Scott Bates and the city of Lowell, about 15 miles west of Charlotte, alleging that they knew that Blair had a history of improper contact with minors.
Not only was Blair hired and kept on the force, the suit says, he was also placed in positions where he would have close contacts with children. The lawsuit paints Blair as a sexual predator. He also wore a badge and carried a gun.
“The biggest issue here is that Blair had a long and well-known history of engaging in this kind of behavior, and the city of Lowell knew about it,” said Charlotte attorney Brad Smith, whose firm filed the complaint. “What happened to this child is tragic and horrible. Presumably, it could have been prevented.”
The lawsuit accuses Blair of assault and battery, and files separate claims against all of the defendants of infliction of emotional distress and wrongful conception.
The mother and daughter are seeking medical expenses, as well as punitive and compensatory damages, claiming that the teenage victim was deprived “of her right to freedom from unlawful assault, battery and sexual contact at the hands of police.”
The infant boy Blair fathered is being raised by his victim’s mother, the lawsuit says. She is asking to be reimbursed for the hospital costs of delivering the child, along with the expenses of taking care of him until he reaches legal age. She also wants to repaid the medical expenses stemming from her daughter’s “severe physical and mental injuries.”
In an interview with the Observer on Thursday, Lowell city attorney Scott MacLatchie disputed the allegations that police and city leaders knew or should have known of a pattern of professional misbehavior by Blair. MacLatchie said the former officer pleaded guilty in court to “a single off-duty incident that had nothing to do with his employment.”
“It’s very unfortunate what happened to this girl and her family,” MacLatchie said. “It is my position that the person responsible is in prison right now, and that the city of Lowell is in no way responsible for what this man did off duty and on his own time.”
Blair, 53, is being held in Pamlico Correctional Institution and is scheduled for release in 2029. Shortly after his imprisonment, Blair violated the terms of his plea agreement by trying to get a letter to his teenage victim, the Gaston Gazette reported.
“I was amazed that he was stupid enough to do it,” Gaston County District Attorney Locke Bell said at the time, according to the Gazette.
Blair joined the Lowell police in 2003.
After returning the missing teen to her family, Blair later told them that the girl had taken an interest in law enforcement and that mentoring children was a part of his job, the lawsuit says.
He began visiting her home regularly, bringing candy and food to give her. He frequently told the girl’s parents and others that if they questioned the nature of his relationship with the teen, they would open themselves up to possible arrest, the lawsuit says.
Blair was arrested in September 2016 after the pregnancy was discovered. The girl was still 13 when Blair initiated the sex, the lawsuit says.
The Observer does not identify victims of sexual assault. While the lawsuit names her mother, it refers to the teen as Jane Doe.