Lowell officer charged with statutory rape, more charges are pending

Lowell police officer charged with raping teenager
James Blair appeared before a magistrate Thursday afternoon (WBTV)
James Blair appeared before a magistrate Thursday afternoon (WBTV)
(Gaston County Jail)
(Gaston County Jail)

GASTON COUNTY, NC (WBTV) - A Lowell police officer accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a minor was arrested Thursday, according to the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (NCSBI).

James Blair is charged with one count of statutory rape of a child under 15, but NCSBI officials said more charges are coming.

Blair's bond was set at $1 million after his arrest.

WBTV has learned Officer Blair will be transferred to a jail outside of Gaston County.

The city of Lowell is in Gaston County, and Blair has worked for the department for quite a while.

The Gaston County Sheriff said that to eliminate any accusations of improper treatment because of the officer's status - they decided to have him held elsewhere.

District Attorney Locke Bell said Gaston County police contacted him a couple of weeks ago after they received a complaint that Blair was having a relationship with a teenage girl.

Bell requested NCSBI agents investigate the case.

NCSBI officials have not released many details about the case.

The arrest warrant says Blair allegedly had sex with the young girl.. as recently as July. 
Bell said Blair was arrested at the girl's mother's house.

"He drove there himself and law enforcement was at the house and he was taken into custody there" said Bell, adding, "They had known each other for quite some time. I don't have the exact amount of time. But it was not something where they just met."

City officials said Blair was out on leave because of a back injury. Thursday morning, Lowell's City Manager said Blair is suspended from the department without pay pending the results of the investigation.

In the small city of Lowell, most people know the officers in the small department.

"I think it's a pretty sad deal," said Eugene Pressley. "I've lived here for twenty something years - 28 years and never had anything like this happen."

"I don't know anything about it but I can't believe he is a police officer and done that," said Barry Spencer. "Should be  - what they do to him is not good enough."

Blair is innocent until proven guilty. 
But will people look at their department in a different light?

"They need to feel comfortable that they are protected within their town" District Attorney Bell said. "If these allegations have any validity to them, it's just one individual. It's not a department."

The SBI is encouraging anyone with information about the case, or anyone who believes they may have had inappropriate contact with Blair, to call the SBI at 704-454-5264.

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