The lawsuit accuses Officer David Rojas of fondling Elizabeth Baggett’s breasts while he was on duty and “feeling her nipples, without limitation,” as well as showing the body camera video of it to others.
Rojas, who has been on the force for four years, and his partner responded to the home where Baggett died on Oct. 20, 2019. When his partner left the room, Rojas allegedly deactivated his body camera and fondled the dead 34-year-old woman.
Officer-worn body cameras have a buffer period and continue to record footage for two minutes after officers deactivate them, the Los Angeles Times reported.
“I am infuriated that this man had so little respect for another human being, our Elizabeth, for not having the thought that she is someone’s daughter, granddaughter and mother,” the woman’s mother, Janet Baggett, said at a news conference held Tuesday at the Los Angeles law offices of attorney Gloria Allred.
“We, her family, have sleepless nights, if we are able to sleep. I personally wake in sweats from the nightmares that haunt me about the events of Elizabeth’s death,” she said. “Days are not much better.”
Allred said Rojas’ actions not only were against the law but violated “all sense of human decency.” The attorney then read a statement written by Baggett’s 15-year-old son, Preston Sertich.
“What has this officer gotten away with to believe this was even possible?” the boy asked, adding that he once wanted to become a police officer before this happened to his mother. “Is there a pattern of behavior against women, arrestees, or decedents? How could you employ this man and let him represent your City?”
The lawsuit alleges invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence, mishandling of human remains and other offenses. It names Rojas, the City of Los Angeles and several others as defendants, but not the Los Angeles Police Department.
The filing comes in addition to criminal charges against Rojas, which were filed in January. His trial has reportedly been delayed multiple times amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Janet Baggett said LAPD internal affairs first reached out to her in late 2019 to notify her of the allegations against Rojas. He was arrested and charged in January with having sexual contact with human remains without authority. The officer pleaded not guilty and faces up to three years in state prison if convicted. He was released on $20,000 bail and is scheduled to court Sept. 15, according to online records.
Rojas remains employed by the Los Angeles Police Department but was suspended in December, LAPD spokesman Officer Mike Chan said. The Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union that represents rank-and-file officers, has declined to pay for Rojas’ legal bills.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.