School Officer : No Action Taken on Sex Complaints

Times Staff Writer

A former Los Angeles school police officer who last month was found guilty of trying to rape a retarded high school girl while on duty had been investigated three times before for improper conduct with female students, The Times has learned. Despite the fact that some of those earlier complaints against him were sustained, he was never disciplined by school officials.

Reuben A. Gonzalez, 37, of South Gate, a 12-year veteran of the Los Angeles Unified School District's 302-member Police Department, was dismissed July 23, five months after the latest accusations of misconduct surfaced.

A 16-year-old girl, born in Vietnam and diagnosed as mildly retarded, testified during Gonzalez's October trial in Pasadena Superior Court that during a lunch hour last February, Gonzalez lured her to a remote attic area at Woodrow Wilson High School, near Lincoln Heights.

The girl told jurors that Gonzalez pulled down her pants and lay on top of her but that she lost consciousness and did not remember anything else of the attack.

Gonzalez was found guilty of one count each of attempted rape and sexual battery and could face up to five years in state prison when he is sentenced Dec. 9, said the prosecutor, Deputy Dist. Atty. James E. Koller.

Citing their duty to protect his privacy, school officials refused to discuss previous complaints about Gonzalez's conduct with female high school students, as did Koller.

Gonzalez's attorney, Charles A. Goldwasser, also declined comment.

However, The Times has learned that in a 1981 investigation, school police officials found evidence that Gonzalez, then working at Bell High School, had repeatedly made suggestive sexual remarks to a 15-year-old girl. Among other things, an official report on the investigation said, Gonzalez questioned the girl about her virginity and volunteered information about his vasectomy.

The report, dated June 26, 1981, said investigators also corroborated a complaint from the girl's mother that Gonzalez repeatedly summoned her daughter and other female students out of class to talk, sometimes allowing them to skip as many as two classes at a time, and then issued passes to explain their absence to teachers.

"When you hold the position of school security, it's just like a policeman," the mother who complained in 1981 told The Times this week. "He felt like, 'I am Superman,' 'I am Robin Hood.' " Gonzalez, like other daytime campus officers, was armed and wore civilian clothes on his patrols.

In the investigators' report, Gonzalez is quoted as admitting that he had asked the girl if she were a virgin and telling her of his vasectomy.

"Let me put it this way," the investigators quoted Gonzalez as saying. "I'm a person who'll always joke. That may be my downfall. . . ."

During the same investigation, another student reported that Gonzalez was having sexual relations with a 12th-grade girl, but the girl denied it and investigators could not further substantiate the allegation, according to the investigator's report.

Complaint Substantiated

Earlier in 1981, a dean at Bell High School found Gonzalez, while on duty at a school dance, drinking beer with a 15-year-old girl in a locker room for women gym teachers. An internal investigation substantiated the school official's complaint, according to a March 25, 1981, report to school Police Chief Richard W. Green.

In the third incident, Gonzalez was accused last December of fondling the breasts of a 15-year-old student at Woodrow Wilson High School during a search for weapons and drugs. Gonzalez, who was in the process of arresting the girl for possession of marijuana, conducted the search alone in an isolated room, the girl told Los Angeles police.

That complaint was investigated by the Los Angeles Police Department's Hollenbeck Division, but the city attorney's office declined to file charges because it did not have enough evidence to prosecute the case, said Detective Rick Barrera, who handled the investigation.

Despite the fact that school district investigators sustained three of five complaints lodged against him in the first two alleged incidents, Gonzalez was not suspended, demoted or dismissed--the three possible disciplinary actions--until after the attempted rape, according to Martin Tucker, assistant chief of the school Police Department. (In one complaint, investigators found the evidence inconclusive and in a second found that the evidence did not support the allegation. Results of the school district's investigation of the third incident were not available to The Times.)

No Explanation of Dismissal

Tucker refused to disclose the reason for Gonzalez's dismissal, again citing privacy concerns.

Herbert G. Graham, who as the school district's director of administrative services supervises the Police Department, said he is barred by district policy from disclosing any less serious steps short of formal disciplinary action that may have been taken as a result of the district's earlier investigations of Gonzalez.

Suspensions, demotions and dismissals require the public approval of the Board of Education and are appealable to the district Personnel Commission, Graham said. He said Gonzalez has filed such an appeal but no hearing date has yet been scheduled.

The mother of the Bell High School student who complained in 1981 told The Times that she believes school officials should have transferred Gonzalez to a night patrol job, in which he would have had no contact with students, rather than move him to another daytime, on-campus security position at Woodrow Wilson.

Worked at Junior High

After leaving Bell High School, Gonzalez also worked for a time at John Adams Junior High School on West 30th Street.

"Someone who had a history like he did, they shouldn't put him close to where young girls are," the mother said. The father of the girl who complained about the fondling last December at Woodrow Wilson High School said this week that after the alleged incident, Principal John Rao assured him that he was familiar with Gonzalez's background and that Rao trusted Gonzalez "100%." Contacted by The Times, Rao declined to discuss the incident.

School Police Chief Green said Gonzalez is only the second officer convicted of a sex-related crime in Green's 12 years in the department.

"I'm basically a strong disciplinarian," Green said. But, he added, "You can only react to that which you can prove. If they're going to do it again, it's going to come to your attention."

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