LINDENHURST, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A long-time school crossing guard is facing charges. He’s accused of a sex crime involving a 15-year-old student.

Philip Bonaventura ignored questions outside his Lindenhurst home and then jumped in a car with others and sped away on Thursday. Neighbors told CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff they’re shocked by the allegations. The 78-year-old is accused of forcibly touching a teenager near his post where for more than a decade he’s shepherded children through a busy intersection.

“I never even seen him put a hand on a kid’s shoulder to walk them across the street,” resident Thomas Rittenhouse said. “If it’s true it’s despicable, but the guy deserves his day in court. He seems like a very, very nice older gentleman.”

Philip Bonaventura (Photo: CBS2)

The crossing guard with the Suffolk County Police Department was charged with forcible touching and child endangerment of a 15-year-old who police said was at Allegheny Avenue Elementary School to pick up a sibling when she encountered Bonaventura and left with him.

“They left the campus and went to a building close by and that’s where the forcible touching took place,” Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said.

Hart said the incident happened three weeks ago, prompting reaction on social media, including some praise for the crossing guard and disbelief. There was also outrage.

“Disgusting. Disgusting. There is no help for that,” one person said.

The Suffolk Police Department employs nearly 500 crossing guards, with each undergoing criminal, medical and psychological background checks.

“This should be in no way a reflection of the individuals that are in position of trust with children,” Hart said.

The Lindenhurst School District notified parents that the accused has been removed from the district.

“I don’t talk to him, but I see him all the time,” parent George Giamalakas said. “I mean, he’s like a nice guy but what I find out today, that’s not too good.”

Bonaventura has also been suspended from the police department. There have been no previous complaints against him, but Suffolk police are asking anyone with information about any other potential victims to call them.

Bonaventura is due to face a judge on Friday.