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San Diego police officer investigated on suspicion of on-duty assaults on women

San Diego police officer investigated on suspicion of on-duty assaults on women
San Diego Police Officer Chris Hays, decorated for bravery, is on suspension while the district attorney decides whether to file charges based on allegations from four women that he assaulted them while on duty. (KGTV-Channel 10)

SAN DIEGO — A decorated police officer has been suspended while the district attorney reviews allegations that he sexually assaulted four women while on duty, officials said Thursday.

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

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Four women have accused the officer of touching them improperly while they were being searched, according to Chief Bill Lansdowne.

One of the four incidents was from a domestic violence call. Others involved a shoplifting suspect, a homeless woman and a women interviewed during a street patrol.

The Police Department's investigation into the accusations,  first reported by KGTV-TV Channel 10, has been forwarded to the district attorney's office for a determination on whether to file criminal charges against Hays.

Separate from the district attorney's review is an investigation by the Police Department into whether the officer violated procedures, Lansdowne said.

That investigation is nearing completion, and the department is close to terminating the officer, Lansdowne said.

The first allegation was made in December, when a woman came to the Police Department. Investigation then revealed three similar incidents, Lansdowne said.

Hays is married and the father of two. His father-in-law, Mark Jones, is an assistant chief with the San Diego department.

Nothing in the investigation revealed any "red flags" that should have indicated to superiors that the officer's on-duty behavior was inappropriate, Lansdowne said.

In 2011, former Officer Anthony Arevalos was convicted of demanding sexual favors from women after making traffic stops. He was sentenced to eight years and eight months in prison; he had been fired after the accusations were made.

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

tony.perry@latimes.com

Twitter: @LATsandiego

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