Cop Who Tickled Corpse Thought Dead Bodies Were Hilarious, Trainee Says
A Bakersfield police officer is accused of tickling a man who had just been shot dead by police and telling another officer that he "loves playing with dead bodies."
Ramiro James Villegas, 22, was shot dead by Bakersfield police on November 13 after leading police on a pursuit. Officer Aaron Stringer, 35, showed up at the scene later with probationary officer Lindy DeGeare, who was training under Stringer, the Bakersfield California reports. She filed a report about how they had managed the crime scene, and that Stringer then suggested they go to the hospital to see the body. This is common practice for trainees, who are often shown bodies and educated about the duties of medical staff, but they are not allowed to touch the bodies. At this point in DeGeare's training, she had seen two other bodies.
It was at the hospital where DeGeare said Stringer showed her Villegas' body, which had been placed on a gurney and covered in a blood-soaked white sheet. DeGeare said Stringer touched the corpse's feet while saying "tickle, tickle," pulled on his toes, joked around about rigor mortis and grabbed the man's head. He then told her he "loves playing with dead bodies" while laughing. DeGeare said he also told her to lie to detectives who would soon arrive to identify the body and tell them that she had not yet seen it. She said that the detectives who arrived did not ask her that question.
Officer Douglas Barrier was also present, and said that he had seen Stringer touch the body, but did not feel at the time like Stringer was doing anything inappropriate. DeGeare decided to file a report the next day after consulting with her mother, a retired sergeant of the Bakersfield police department.
Police Chief Greg Williamson put Stringer on paid leave while the department investigates. Police filed a criminal case in February, however, prosecutors dismissed it, CBS LA reports. Assistant District Attorney Scott Spielman noted that Stringer did not disturb a crime scene as the body had already been moved from the scene to the hospital. District Attorney Lisa Green said that it may be "disgusting, but it isn't a crime." Bakersfield PD Sgt. Joe Grubbs said that the department may punish Stringer with a written reprimand or by firing him if they conclude he did anything wrong, but did not provide a timeline for when the investigation would be complete.
Stringer was also arrested in 2010 for driving recklessly and hitting a curb while in his patrol car. Police later said that Stringer had taken the sleeping aid Ambien, which was prescribed to him. Stringer was also given an award in 2009 for rescuing his partner during a shooting at a convenience store.
Meanwhile, Villegas' family has high-profile L.A. attorney Mark Geragos representing them in a case against the City of Bakersfield for the shooting. Villegas was killed following a police pursuit after he exited Highway 178 at the Mount Vernon off-ramp and crashed into a pole. Police claimed that Villegas reached toward his waistband while coming towards them, prompting them to open fire, though they did not find a gun on Villegas. Geragos filed the claim against the city in February and said he will be filing the lawsuit soon. Geragos also wants Stringer fired.