Former City Cop Facing Molestation Charge

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WILKES-BARRE -- A former Wilkes-Barre police officer, who most recently worked in the Wilkes-Barre Area School District, faces molestation charges.

Gerald Cookus worked at Solomon Plains Junior High for the last few years as a security greeter. That's someone who checked children as they went through a metal detector.

Police believe he sexually assaulted an 8-year-old girl off campus and authorities think there are even more victims.

Police think Cookus, 77, sexually assaulted a young girl at his home on Mayock Street in Wilkes-Barre.

Newswatch 16 talked to Cookus in the 1990s when he worked security at Wilkes University.

Before that, he was a lieutenant in the Wilkes-Barre Police Department.

Most recently, he worked as a security greeter at Solomon Plains Education Center for the Wilkes-Barre Area School District.  During his shift, he would be stationed at a metal detector.

"My first initial reaction was immediately to suspend this individual," said Wilkes-Barre Area Superintendent Bernard Prevuznak.

Authorities started investigating after the victim's mother noticed Cookus hugging her daughter goodbye, and grabbing her funny.

Court papers show he admitted to police he touched the girl inappropriately because he believed she thought it felt good.

Authorities claim there could be even more victims, and they believe he may have had inappropriate behavior with others.

While school leaders do not think the assaults happened on school grounds, the Wilkes-Barre Area School District is launching an internal investigation.

"Our credo as a school district is the idea that student safety and their welfare are our number one priority," said Prevuznak.

The Wilkes-Barre Area School District suspended Cookus without pay.  He is free on bail. While he admitted to touching the girl, he doesn't believe he sexually assaulted her.

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