A Bakersfield police officer has been placed on paid administrative leave after he allegedly tickled the feet of a man shot dead by police and said, “tickle, tickle.”
Bakersfield police spokesman Sgt. Joe Grubbs confirmed that Officer Aaron Stringer was on leave from the department and that an internal affairs investigation was underway.
Stringer is accused of grabbing Ramiro James Villegas’ head and touching his feet as he lay dead on a gurney, the Bakersfield Californian reported. He reportedly told another officer that he “loves playing with dead bodies,” the newspaper reported.
A trainee apparently was so disturbed by Stringer’s comments that she reported it to her superiors, said attorney Mark Geragos, who is representing Villegas’ family in a claim against the department.
“It’s about the most ghoulish and disturbing behavior,” Geragos told the Los Angeles Times.
Geragos said the Bakersfield Police Department has demonstrated “a pattern of shooting to kill” young, unarmed Latino men.
Villegas, 22, was shot Nov. 13, 2014, after leading police on a pursuit and then crashing into a light pole.
Geragos said Villegas was driving his mother’s car when he was stopped by officers, who ordered him out of the vehicle and then shot him multiple times.
Police reported that Villegas reached for his waistband, said attorney Ben Meiselas, who is also representing Villegas’ family. But he said witnesses told police Villegas put his hands up. A weapon was never recovered, he said.
Villegas was Tasered and shot nine times with bullets striking his head and genitals, Meiselas said.
According to the claim, Villegas was “left to die.”
Geragos and Meiselas are also representing the family of another man who was shot and killed by police in September 2013.
In that case, Jorge Ramirez, 34, was working as a confidential informant for the police department and had offered to help them find Justin Harger, who was wanted in connection with assault with a deadly weapon, in exchange for a clean slate, according to a lawsuit filed in Kern County Superior Court.
Ramirez found Harger and drove with him as he provided police with details about his whereabouts.
When police met them at a hotel, they engaged Harger in a gun battle without first ensuring Ramirez was out of harm's way, according to the lawsuit.
Ramirez's attorneys alleged police tried to cover up the shooting. They said police did not reveal Ramirez was working as their informant and tried to discredit him.
Ramirez, a father of five, was shot 10 times, Meiselas said.
Ramirez’s father, he said, later obtained text messages from his son’s phone showing he was communicating with police about Harger that night.
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