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Officer to stand trial for abusing women; second arrested for abuse

Crime, Law and JusticeLaw EnforcementJustice SystemCrimeCourts and the Judiciary

SAN DIEGO -- A former San Diego police officer was ordered Wednesday to stand trial on five counts of mistreating women while on duty.

Christopher Hays, an officer for four years before resigning after his arrest in February, was ordered by Superior Court Judge Charles Rogers to stand trial on two counts of felony false imprisonment and three counts of misdemeanor battery.

Rogers' decision came after a preliminary hearing in which three women testified that Hays touched them inappropriately. Hays' attorney argued that the women's drug use and criminal records made their testimony unreliable, but Rogers disagreed.

A police investigator testified that Hays broke into tears when told of the allegations against him and asked if the case would "go away" if he resigned.

Also on Wednesday, officials disclosed that Officer Gilbert Lorenzo was arrested Tuesday in La Mesa on suspicion of domestic violence. Lorenzo, 31, a seven-year veteran of the San Diego department, was booked into county jail after his wife called police to say he had assaulted her.

Lorenzo has been suspended without pay, officials said.

At a news conference, Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman repeated her vow not to tolerate the mistreatment of women by the department's officers. 

Hays, 30, received a medal in 2012 for dashing into a burning building to save a woman who was trapped on the second floor. He also served with the Marines in Iraq as a lance corporal.

Lorenzo has not yet been charged or arraigned.

The Hays' case marks the second time in recent years that a San Diego officer has been charged with assaulting women while on duty.

In 2011, Officer Anthony Arevalos was convicted of demanding sexual favors from women after making traffic stops. He was fired after charges were brought. He was sentenced to eight years and eight months in prison.

The City Council has approved a total of $2.3 million in payments to women assaulted by Arevalos. One case has gone to trial.

In the wake of Hays' arrest, the City Council requested that the Department of Justice perform an audit of the police department's hiring, supervision and internal affairs practices.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer said the audit is needed to restore trust in the police department that may have eroded because of the Hays case and other instances of misconduct by officers.

Among other things, officials want suggestions on how to better detect problem officers. The audit will take six months and be funded by the Department of Justice.

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tony.perry@latimes.com
Twitter: @LATsandiego

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