A Kern County sheriff’s deputy who was only on patrol a little more than two weeks is accused of twice sexually assaulting a woman while on duty in late March in an incident that has Sheriff Donny Youngblood convinced of the deputy’s guilt.
“We’re your worst critic if you work here and involve yourself in criminal activity,” Youngblood said Monday.
Gabriel Lopez, 26, was arrested Monday on a warrant charging him with sexual battery, assault by a peace officer under the color of authority and false imprisonment. He posted $60,000 bail Monday afternoon.
Youngblood called Lopez a “rogue deputy” who a woman has accused of twice inappropriately touching her during an investigation. The department has placed Lopez on paid administrative leave.
The woman reported that Lopez and another deputy arrived at her Tehachapi residence March 25 to conduct a burglary investigation, deputies said. The woman was handcuffed by Lopez and led into another room under the pretense of searching her for weapons, but he inappropriately touched her, including under her clothing, the department reported.
Youngblood said it’s sheriff’s department policy that generally a male deputy will not conduct a strip search or even a patdown of a female. Also, two deputies are to be present during such searches.
A male suspect in the burglary investigation who was at the residence was arrested and taken to jail by the other deputy, according to deputies. Shortly after that deputy left, Lopez returned to the residence.
Youngblood said the woman reported Lopez told her he was conducting a more thorough search and told her to remove her clothing. The woman said the deputy then again touched her inappropriately.
She reported the incident March 27, and detectives with the Kern County Sheriff’s Office Sexual Assault and Abuse Investigation Unit began an investigation. Detectives contacted Lopez on April 2, at the beginning of his shift, after he returned from scheduled days off.
Youngblood said he couldn’t discuss any comments Lopez made to detectives, but that he did admit to searching the woman. Lopez was placed on administrative leave after being interviewed.
The case was submitted to the District Attorney’s office Friday and an arrest warrant was issued Monday. There’s no indication the other deputy saw Lopez’s actions or did anything wrong, Youngblood said.
Lopez was hired Sept. 24, 2011 and completed field training March 8.