Robert Edward Barke
Robert Edward Barke

Concerns about the behavior of a Broomfield gymnastics coach charged Wednesday with sexual assault on a child were first raised by a fellow coach, who told police he was worried about the "closeness" Robert Edward Barke had with some of the gymnasts he coached, according to an arrest affidavit.

Barke, 32, has been charged with multiple counts of sexual assault. The charges allege that he sexually assaulted two boys from October 2004 to June 2007 while he was their gymnastics coach at Xtreme Altitude Gymnastics in Broomfield, according to a news release issued Wednesday by the 17th Judicial District Attorney's Office.

The victims were 12 and 14 at the time the alleged assaults began, according to the release.

Charges include sexual assault on a child by a person in a position of trust, sexual assault on a child by a person in a position of trust as a pattern of abuse, sexual assault on a child and unlawful sexual contact

The fellow coach did not personally witness any sexual contact, but told management on several occasions about Barke's behavior, according to an arrest affidavit obtained Thursday morning. The affidavit did not state when the coach raised his concerns, only that he had worked at Xtreme Altitude since 2006.

The coach, whose name was redacted from the affidavit, said Barke would take a "special interest" in certain gymnasts and touched them in a way that was "not necessary" while spotting them or working on training exercises. Barke also insisted on giving certain students rides home, the coach said.

Broomfield police became aware of the alleged assaults when the mother of one of the victims contacted them in February. Her son confided in her about the abuse, but initially did not want to go to police, because of how difficult it was to process the memories, the affidavit stated.

The mother said she respected her son's wishes until he learned another gymnast had experienced similar abuse. Her son then decided he must tell police in order to prevent other people from being abused, the affidavit stated.

According to the affidavit, the young gymnasts were eager to impress their coach in order to get scholarships or attend high-level competitions.

One victim told police he first admired his coach, but became uneasy when Barke began inviting him to his house alone, where he would sometimes show him pornography or touch him inappropriately.

Barke sometimes added sexual elements to one-on-one training sessions, and the victims were sometimes instructed to take off their clothes during private training sessions, according to the affidavit.

Barke warned the victims not to tell their parents and threatened to stand in the way of their scholarship opportunities or other competitive goals if they said anything, the affidavit stated.

Barke, who now lives in Houston, was arrested there on March 27. He was released on $100,000 bond. He previously was a gymnastics coach in Grand Junction.

Barke was recently an employee of Champions Gymnastics Academy in Katy, Texas. An employee told the Houston Chronicle on Thursday that Barke had been employed at the gym, but Barke had since been fired from the facility this spring. The employee would provide no other details of his employment there.

An employee who answered the phone at Champion Gymnastics on Thursday declined to answer an Enterprise reporter’s questions.

Barke waived his right to a preliminary hearing on Wednesday, when he appeared in a Broomfield courtroom. He was bound over for trial in Broomfield District Court and will be arraigned at 8:30 a.m. June 20.

The news release issued Wednesday did not state how long Barke worked at Xtreme Altitude in Broomfield. A call to the the gymnastics studio, which answered Flatirons Gymnastics Center, seeking information on his employment there was not returned, instead a statement was sent by email.

It read: "We were all extremely shocked to hear about this news. It has been quite a few years since he has worked for us and we knew nothing of the situation prior to being recently contacted by authorities. We are fully cooperating with detectives in any way we can, but we are very limited in our knowledge of any details associated with the case. As always, the safety of our athletes is of paramount importance to us and we take this situation very seriously.

"Stories like this are becoming all too common, so while we have always had policies and procedures in place to keep our athletes safe, we are committed to raising the awareness of this issue with our gym families, so that the children in our community are better protected everywhere they go."

Officials with the center would not comment on the length of Barke's tenure there and whether or not he was subject to a background check prior to being hired.

A Google search of Barke's name showed he was listed as a coach to USA Gymnastics Academic All American Athletes in 2004, 2005 and 2009.

The Broomfield Police Department is seeking information about other potential witnesses or victims who have not yet come forward.

Anyone with information should call Detective Dale Hammell at 303-464-5733.

Contact Enterprise Staff Writer Megan Quinn at 303-410-2649 or quinnm@broomfieldenterprise.com