Santa Monica P.D. knew of Eric Uller’s molestation arrest but still let him be youth volunteer

John AM Doe is one of hundreds of victims who were sexually abused as minors
John AM Doe is one of hundreds of victims who were sexually abused as minors while attending Santa Monica’s Police Activities League.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Santa Monica police allowed a civilian employee to volunteer in a youth program — where he went on to molest more than 200 children — despite a 1991 background check that revealed he was arrested as a teen for molesting a toddler he baby-sat, according to a report reviewed by The Times.

Beginning in the late 1980s, Eric Uller preyed on the most vulnerable children in the predominantly Latino neighborhoods of Santa Monica, often traveling in an unmarked police vehicle or his personal SUV, which was outfitted with police equipment, according to court records. It took decades for Uller to be exposed before he was ultimately arrested and charged in 2018.

This week, the Santa Monica City Council approved a $122.5-million payout to settle hundreds of claims against the city’s top systems analyst, who died by suicide before his first court appearance. The total settlements now top $229 million — the most costly single-perpetrator sexual disbursement for any municipality.


Revelations that police knew of the teenage arrest heighten growing concerns about why Santa Monica police missed repeated warnings that Uller was a predator.

News of the report was especially unsettling for John AM Doe, one of hundreds of former Police Activities League youths who sued the city over sexual abuse claims. He said he was 12 when Uller began molesting him — about the same time the previous arrest was uncovered.

“This is a perfect example of institutional racism,” said John AM Doe, who was identified in court documents by a pseudonym and is not being identified by The Times, which generally does not name the victims of sexual assault. “If it was a person of color ... it would’ve never went this far.”

Mayor Gleam Davis called the abuse “a sad chapter of the city’s history.” But in announcing the settlement, neither she nor other officials revealed that a 1991 background check uncovered that Uller, then a new police dispatcher, had been accused of sexual abuse as a 14-year-old.

According to the report, conducted by a background investigator for the Santa Monica Police Department, Uller revealed that he had been arrested as a juvenile. He told the investigator he was accused of molesting a 4-year-old boy he was baby-sitting.

Uller told the investigator he saw a counselor, and he was never charged.

Santa Monica this week settled more lawsuits, bringing its total payout to $229.285 million — the most costly single-perpetrator sexual abuse disbursement for any municipality in the state.

April 27, 2023

An interdepartmental memo detailing the investigator’s findings was sent to a police sergeant overseeing personnel and training on Nov. 12, 1991 — nine months after Uller formally became a dispatcher.


At the time, Uller had already worked for two years as a staff assistant at the Police Activities League. He went on to volunteer for the PAL program for at least a decade.

In fact, according to numerous lawsuits filed against the city, Uller was already grooming, sexually abusing and raping dozens of boys in the program.

He bribed some and threatened others — particularly those who’d had scrapes with the law or whose families’ immigration status made them vulnerable — according to witness statements.

“I couldn’t say nothing because my family would go to jail,” said John AM Doe, adding that he was abused by Uller for two years. “It was as if he could get away with whatever he wanted.”

Six additional people have accused a Santa Monica city employee of sexual abuse following the man’s arrest on suspicion of molesting four boys while he was a volunteer with the city’s Police Activities League more than 20 years ago, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said.

Oct. 26, 2018

The investigator who conducted Uller’s background check also reached out to the Los Angeles Police Department’s Pacific Division, which shows a 1983 juvenile booking record for Uller on suspicion of child molestation. After his arrest, he was released to his parents.

According to documents reviewed by The Times, Uller, then 23, was asked to explain his arrest. He told the investigator that the boy’s mother accused him of molestation because of the way “he touched the child or something.” Uller said it was a long time ago and it was difficult to remember, “as nothing happened.”


Uller’s father, a prominent doctor in Santa Monica, supported his son in an interview with the investigator. Robert Uller described the boy in question as the son of a business partner. In the report, he said that after his son was arrested, they hired a psychologist, who said no molestation had occurred and “Eric was fine, however, a little immature.”

Uller’s stepmother, however, told the investigator she was concerned about what had happened and didn’t know whether Uller had done anything, but she hoped “it was an adolescent phase and he had grown out of it.”

The investigator said in the report that he did not reach out to the family of the boy, who was 12 at the time.

But after learning from the LAPD crime report that the “incident described was more than a touching molest, as described by Eric,” the investigator interviewed the young dispatcher again.

Uller “seemed very concerned that the charges made against him were so serious, even though not true,” the investigator wrote. He noted that Uller’s references spoke highly of him, and city staff described him as a good worker with extensive computer knowledge.

Brian Claypool raises a hand to his face.
Attorney Brian Claypool represented more than 80 victims in a sex abuse settlement with Santa Monica.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Attorney Brian Claypool, who represented more than 80 victims in the lawsuits, said he’s never seen a case like this.

“The Police Department and the city had repeated warnings,” he said. “We need a new state law to make government officials more culpable when they repeatedly overlook reports of child sexual abuse. These are mandated reporters, and law as it stands isn’t enough.”

Santa Monica officials did not respond to repeated requests for comment on the revelation of the background report, which was the first of many warnings that were repeatedly ignored before Uller was arrested and then took his own life.

A Santa Monica police sergeant became suspicious of Uller’s behavior with a boy between 1991 and 1993 and launched an investigation, according to a 2018 Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department report reviewed by The Times.

A decade later, retired Santa Monica police Lt. Greg Slaughter — who headed the department’s communications center where Uller was the lead systems analyst — said a supervisor turned on a computer for work early one morning and child pornography popped up on the screen.

Slaughter told sheriff’s investigators he immediately ordered an investigation, which led to Uller, but he was never interviewed regarding the allegations.


“The Santa Monica police had so many opportunities to put an end to Eric Uller’s reign of terror against boys, and they failed on an epic, incredibly tragic scale,” said attorney David Ring, who negotiated the first two settlements.