Skaters had suspicions about Philly coach charged with abuse 

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Some of the skaters and skateboarders at Paine's Park near the Philadelphia Museum of Art always had an uneasy feeling about a certain man they'd often see at the skate park.

"He would show up with a van full of kids. We all kind of knew what was going on," said Tyler Knight of the suspicions that 52-year-old Rodney Watkins was behaving inappropriately with the boys he coached.

Police arrested Watkins on May 1 on charges of rape and sexual assault of a minor. Two men came forward alleging that Watkins abused them when they were children.

This week, prosecutors appeared in court for a pretrial hearing, asking a judge to ban Watkins from having contact with children.

"(He's) a little too touchy, definitely a little aggressive," said one skater at Paine Park who didn't want to give his name.

Knight recalls other people at the park being suspicious too but worrying that there would never be any proof.

"When you bring it up, people are like 'no that's not really what's happening.' So you can't really tell anyone it's going on," he said.

EMBED More News Videos

The founder of a Philadelphia skateboarding club has been charged with rape and sexual assault of two children.

Fifty-two-year-old Watkins allegedly committed the assaults in 2011 and 2012 when the alleged victims were 11 or 12 years old. The victims say they met Watkins at local skate parks.

A woman answering the door at Watkins' home didn't want to talk about the allegations.

"I'd really prefer you talk to the lawyer," she said.

Police say Watkins frequented Paine's Park near the Art Museum. He also was known to skate at the POPS and Whitehall skateparks.

According to the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office, Watkins told his victims that's he owned a skateboarding company and sponsored a team called Powerfulnailya. The team traveled to skateboarding competitions in New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Maine.

One victim was a member of the skateboarding team. The other was invited to travel with the team.

"It's an easy thing for skaters to fall into that trap," said Knight. "Someone telling them, 'Hey I'll bring you to the skate park, I'll give you this I'll give you a new skateboard.'"

The assaults allegedly happened at a hotel during an out-of-town trip and at Watkins' home during a sleepover.

Now, the Philadelphia District Attorney's office and the Philadelphia Police Department are asking more potential victims to step forward and contact the Special Victims Unit at 215-685-3251 or the anonymous tipline at 215-686-TIPS.

A judge granted a request from the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office that Watkins be required to stay away from children. They have also requested that he not be allowed around skate parks.

A judge will rule on that request in Watkins' next court appearance on January 26th.

The news of his arrest has spread through Philadelphia's skateboarding community.

"He's been a part of the community for all these years," said Jimi Osinupebi Who first learned of the arrest on social media. "Dark stuff goes on everywhere. I'm just glad he got caught and people came out and spoke about it."
Copyright © 2021 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.