“Two church leaders, a father and son, face criminal charges after police say a parking lot dispute turned violent.
Pastor Bennett Smith leads The Church at Polaris. His son Paul Smith is an associate pastor there.
The Church at Polaris sits on Gemini Place, right across the street from Polaris Fashion Place.
Church staffers say the heavy traffic that plagues the area has led nearby residents to use the church parking lot as a cut-through — a conflict that police say caused the pastor and his son to forget their teachings and turn to violence.
Online videos of Pastor Bennett Smith show him making light of the ongoing traffic troubles in his church parking lot.
“We put all those curbs in, right? We paid a lot of money,” said Pastor Bennett Smith. “And I’ve been waiting for someone to just run over that at full speed, but it hasn’t happened yet, so I was a little disappointed.”
But church staffers say the issue has become a safety concern.
They say for years, residents from neighborhoods north of the church have used the church lot to bypass traffic.
Instead of traveling Powell Road to Old State Road to Polaris Parkway to Gemini Place, they say drivers will just cut through the church lot.
In his sermons, the pastor describes standing guard in the lot.
“You know, we poured all the curbs on both sides, and shut the gates at nights. So I would come out here, I’d be here until about 10, go home and sleep a little while, come back around 3:15. I actually chased one guy out of the parking lot that was nuts – ‘donutting’ in our parking lot, fish-tailing. I chased him out. He was already going fast, but I was still catching him, you know what I’m saying? I got a big truck.”
On April 18, a Lewis Center man tells police he was attacked by Pastor Bennett and his son while trying to cut through the lot.
The victim, who did not want his name used, told 10TV that as he approached, he saw a young man in plainclothes waving him down. He said he continued on, and as he drove past, the man he identifies as the pastor’s son, Paul Smith, punched and shattered one of his windows.
He said he stopped his car, and that’s when Pastor Bennett Smith drove up, cursed at him, and punched him in the face.
The husband of a church staffer told 10TV that he witnessed the pastor strike the man, but said the victim was provoking the pastor, and that it was not a punch, but an open-handed slap.
Both Pastor Bennett Smith and his 24-year-old son are charged with assault. Paul Smith also faces a charge of criminal damaging.
10TV was not able to reach Bennett Smith for comment. Paul Smith declined to comment.”