LA cop who allegedly fondled dead woman's breasts got caught in bodycam he thought he had shut down
The family of a woman whose body was fondled by an on-duty Los Angeles Police Department officer when he found her dead after responding to her residence is suing the officer and the city of Los Angeles. The disturbing incident unfolded on October 20, 2019, the day 34-year-old Elizabeth Baggett died of a drug overdose, according to the Los Angeles Times. David Rojas, 27, was the officer who responded to her home, along with his partner, after receiving reports of a dead body.
After the pair confirmed that Baggett was dead, Rojas' partner went to the patrol car to retrieve paperwork, at which point the 27-year-old turned off his body camera and allegedly fondled her breasts and touched her nipples. He had turned off his body camera before groping her but the device had continued to record due to a buffering period. His conduct came to light after the footage from the body camera was discovered by a detective investigating Baggett's death and reported to the concerned authorities. He was subsequently placed on leave, arrested, and charged with a felony violation of the state safety codes covering sexual actions with human remains.
Rojas pleaded not guilty to the charges in January and was released on a $20,000 bail pending trial but is now the subject of a lawsuit, along with the LAPD, that is accusing him of a slew of offenses, including negligence, invasion of privacy, mishandling of human remains, and the intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Speaking at a press conference where she announced the lawsuit, Janet Baggett, Elizabeth Baggett’s mother, said she felt "shock and disgust" when she first learned of the allegations against Rojas by LAPD Internal Affairs officers late in 2019. "It’s a nightmare," she said, struggling to hold back her tears. "I already lost my daughter."
"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," she added. "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. Days are not much better."
Gloria Allred, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of Baggett, her 15-year-old son Preston Sertich, and his father Michael Sertich in Los Angeles Superior Court on Tuesday, August 11, said Rojas' alleged actions were not just against the law, but also against "all sense of human decency." "It’s just horrific to think that a woman even at her death is being sexually molested," she said. "It’s just the height of disrespect."
She read out a statement by Preston where he said he once strived to become a police officer but had given up on that dream after losing all trust in law enforcement. "What has this officer gotten away with to believe this was even possible?" Preston wrote. "Is there a pattern of behavior against women, arrestees or decedents? How could you employ this man and let him represent your city?"
The family is seeking unspecified damages.