A youth football coach in DeSoto County is accused of sexual battery on a minor over the age of 12.
Bruce Blanden Jr., 40, was arrested Tuesday by the Arcadia Police Department. Blanden, who also worked in DeSoto County High School, had his first appearance in court on Wednesday where bail was set at $1 million.
Blanden lists himself as the commissioner and head football coach of DeSoto Youth Football. He faces 10 counts of sexual assault by a custodian on a victim between the ages of 12 and 18, jail records show.
Blanden worked closely with children of all ages as a football coach and as a counselor at DeSoto County High School through First Steps of Sarasota since 2016. DeSoto County Schools said Blanden was not one of their employees. First Steps of Sarasota is a behavioral healthcare center that serves children, adolescents, adults and seniors who struggle with mental-health and substance-use issues, according to its website.
His job was to help students who had problems that could affect their education, according to Tom Knight, CEO and president of First Step of Sarasota.
“He went through a level two DCF background check which is the highest level background,” Knight said. “They are there for the students. Even if a student is 18 and a senior in high school, it is still off-limits.”
Knight said Blanden was fired immediately after his arrest.
“I am quite disgusted about it,” said Knight, former Sarasota County sheriff.
Knight said he is also disappointed.
“We recognize this child’s trust was won by him, he exploited that trust,” Knight said.
Blanden’s arrest information cites an offense date of March 8. An arrest report was not immediately available but the sex act happened at a football field, according to details released during Blanden’s first appearance hearing.
In a statement to WINK News, DeSoto County public schools said Blanden was not a school district employee but was placed at DeSoto County High School. The district also said Blanden was not a coach for the school district.
His role with DeSoto Youth Football is unclear.
Connie Murphy, of Arcadia, said she watches the DeSoto Youth football players practice and play.
“If this happened to them, I would’ve been out for blood,” Murphy said.
“If it had been my kid, they wouldn’t have had to worry about arresting him,” she added.
Blanden is ordered to have no contact with anyone under the age of 18 should he bond out of jail.