Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore said he was “disgusted” by allegations that an officer fondled a dead woman’s breasts and added that criminal charges are possible.
Department officials initially thought the alleged act was discovered during a random inspection of the officer’s body camera footage, but officials now say a detective investigating the woman’s death found the video.
The officer, who is assigned to downtown’s Central Division, was placed on leave and assigned to home as the department launched an internal investigation. The Times first reported the incident on Tuesday.
Moore told KTLA on Thursday that the department would “aggressively pursue any criminal violation.”
“Let me first and foremost apologize to the family,” the chief said. “I can’t imagine the pain that comes from losing a daughter, a 27-year-old woman, who we’re still investigating the circumstances of her death. But then to have that compounded by new reports of an allegation that an officer broke that trust.”
Former L.A. County sex crimes prosecutor Dmitry Gorin said a California health and safety statute makes willful sexual contact with the deceased a felony.
“Every person who willfully mutilates, disinters, removes from the place of interment, or commits an act of sexual penetration on, or has sexual contact with, any remains known to be human, without authority of law, is guilty of a felony,” according to the statute.
The touching of breasts repeatedly for sexual gratification would meet that standard, he said.
Gorin, though, said he has not seen such a charge.
The alleged incident occurred when the officer and his partner responded to a call about a possible dead woman in a residential unit, sources said. Once the two officers determined the woman was dead, one officer returned to the patrol car to retrieve something. During that time, the accused officer turned off his body-worn camera and allegedly fondled the woman’s breasts, LAPD officials said.
Although the officer deactivated the camera, a two-minute buffer on the device captured the incident. The department is also investigating the officer’s work history.
Currently, when an LAPD officer turns his or her camera on, it automatically begins saving video and audio starting two minutes before the activation. It’s unclear for how long the officer allegedly fondled the dead woman or what triggered him to later activate the camera.