( 4UMF NEWS ) Cop On Paid Leave For Tickling Corpse:
A California cop is on paid leave for allegedly tickling and tampering with the corpse of a man shot and killed by police – and the dead man’s outraged family wants answers, their lawyer said.
Bakersfield Police Officer Aaron Stringer allegedly pulled on the toes of Ramiro James Villegas’ body in November, touched the bottom of Villegas’ feet saying “tickle tickle,” manipulated his head and told a trainee he “loved” playing with dead bodies, lawyer Mark Geragos told the Daily News.
“We are grossly disturbed by the ghoulish behavior of the police,” Geragos told The News.
“The family wants answers and accountability,” the prominent lawyer said.
The disturbing allegations surfaced Friday after the Bakersfield Californian newspaper obtained internal police reports regarding Officer Stringer’s actions at the Kern Medical Center.
The alleged incident took place as Villegas’ body lay on a gurney covered with a blood-soaked white sheet, the newspaper said.
The unarmed man was shot and killed after he led cops on high-speed chase and crashed into a signal light pole on Nov. 13. Police later said Villegas moved aggressively toward officers and reached for his waistband when three officers opened fire and a fourth used a Taser.
No gun was recovered from Villegas.
Stringer, 35, was working with trainee Lindy DeGeare that day and reportedly helped interview witnesses and assist with securing the scene.
Afterward, Stringer asked DeGeare if she wanted to view the body, and she agreed believing it was for training purposes, The Californian reported.
At the Kern County Medical Center, a nurse provided the cops with the pass code for a door that led to Villegas’ body and another officer assigned to guard him, the newspaper said.
Stringer donned gloves, pulled back the sheet and surveyed the wounds before touching the bottom of Villegas’ feet saying “tickle tickle,” DeGeare allegedly told investigators.
Stringer then pulled on the toes of the right foot and used both hands to twice turn Villegas’ head to a forward position before letting it go and watching it flop back to its original position, the reports obtained by The Californian said.
Stringer allegedly laughed as he told DeGeare he “loves playing with dead bodies,” the newspaper said.
The trainee said she later discussed her discomfort with the incident with her retired cop mom and decided to report it.
The officer who was guarding Villegas’ body told investigators he also witnessed Stringer touch Villegas’ chin and jaw area and saw him try to open Villegas’ mouth, according to The Californian.
The Kern County coroner’s office did not authorize Stringer to touch the body, and Bakersfield Police Chief Greg Williamson characterized Stringer’s statements as “disturbing” when reached by The Californian on Friday.
He said Stringer has been on paid leave pending an internal probe.
Prosecutors reviewed the case but opted not to file charges, the newspaper said.
Geragos’ law firm previously filed a claim against the city regarding the shooting. The February claim against the city of Bakersfield was a necessary first step before filing an expected lawsuit.
The claim said Villegas was “unconstitutionally shot to death” after he was cornered.
“(Villegas) got out of his vehicle, unarmed and nonviolent, with his hands up,” the claim obtained by The News said. “The officers opened fire for no justifiable reason and shot decedent in the head while another officer used his taser. Decedent was left to die with no first aid being administered. Decedent died 30 minutes after the incident.”
The Bakersfield Police Department’s Critical Incident Review Board determined the shooting was within department, state and federal guidelines.
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