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Arrested Minister Seeking a Second Chance

August 15, 2007
WHEELING — Eric Swayngim believes people deserve a second chance when it comes to their mistakes. Now, Swayngim may need a second chance himself after being arrested Tuesday by Wheeling police.

Officers arrested Swayngim, pastor of the Second Chance Church, at 3:40 a.m. Tuesday for public intoxication — less than seven hours after he successfully petitioned the Wheeling Planning Commission for a permit that will allow him to relocate his church from Blaine to Kruger Street in Elm Grove.

“I’m a real person and I make real mistakes,” Swayngim said Tuesday evening following his release from police custody. “I am a recovering alcoholic and drug addict and I slipped up. I gathered with my family and friends, and we are going to grow from this.”

Swayngim said he quit the ministry about five years ago because of addiction problems and a failed marriage, but he since has felt a need to reach out to other people with problems.

“I wanted to have a real church with real people who make real mistakes,” he said. “That’s why it’s called Second Chance. We are an ‘outcast received’ church. We take in everybody who needs a second chance.”

The minister said he does not condone his actions of Tuesday morning.

“I apologize to everybody — the Christian community and non-Christian community alike,” he said. “I am not condoning what I did, but I would like to see redemption brought to it. I would hope this will create an atmosphere of healing and reconciliation for all people who have made mistakes.”

According to a police report, officers stopped a vehicle early Tuesday that had made several passes through East Wheeling and had dropped off a female who was known to police as a prostitute and drug user.

After they released the driver, officers located the woman and a man — later identified as Swayngim — walking near 126 14th St. The report states, “The man attempted to walk away but had trouble maintaining his balance.” It also notes Swayngim had bloodshot eyes and a strong odor of alcoholic beverage about him.

Swayngim, 41, of 505 Kruger St., Wheeling, told police he had consumed a few drinks.

Officers apparently gave Swayngim a second chance when they placed him into a taxi cab and advised him to go home. Officers told Swayngim he would be arrested if he was seen again in public in an intoxicated state.

But according to the report, police spotted Swayngim five minutes later walking near 14th and Market streets. When asked why he did not go home, Swayngim allegedly told police he “wished to get something special from that girl, admitting he wished to purchase sexual favors.”

Swayngim was taken to police headquarters for processing but was not fingerprinted “due to his intoxicated state and difficulty standing,” the report notes. He was taken to the Northern Regional Jail in Moundsville; he was released early Tuesday after posting $500 bond.

At Monday’s planning commission meeting, Swayngim said he previously operated the church in Blaine for three years, but decided he wanted to come to home to Wheeling.

He told commission members he hopes Second Chance Church, located at 503 Kruger St., is embraced by residents in the surrounding area. He noted he does not want to take members from other congregations but, by helping children, he hopes to reach out to their parents.

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