Parents Say Cop|Played With Son’s Corpse

     BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (CN) – A police officer said he loved “playing with dead bodies” while tickling the feet of an unarmed man whom officers had shot to death that day, the man’s parents claim in court.
     Leticia Delarosa and Ramiro Villegas sued Bakersfield and five police officers Tuesday for the wrongful death of their son, Ramiro James Villegas, whom police shot in the head on Nov. 13, 2014.
     Twenty-two-year-old James Villegas, a “dedicated churchgoer” who “took care of his ill mother” and was a “constant inspiration for the religious faith of others,” was driving home when Officers Edgar Aguilera, Frank McIntyre, Rick Wimbish and Valeria Robles pulled him over, his parents say in the complaint in Kern County Court. They say their son had no criminal record.
     After the officers forced his car into a light pole, Villegas got out of the car and followed all of the officers’ commands, his family says.
     “He raised his hands in the air, demonstrating that he had no weapon, and was not physically threatening the officers. Numerous eyewitness accounts and video recorded at the scene confirm that James was not threatening the safety of any of the officers present or attempting to reach for a weapon,” his parents say in the lawsuit.
     Wimbish Tasered him – though none of the officers mentioned that in their reports – but a witness saw it, according to the complaint. When Wimbish’s Taser shot failed to work, “the officers resorted to killing James, as the Bakersfield Police Department has done many times before,” though he remained standing with his arms raised, the parents say.
     “The officers fired nine shots at James from a distance of at least 10 feet,” according to the complaint. “Five rounds struck James, including one bullet through his left forehead, which fractured his skull and lacerated his brain, and another piercing his groin area.”
     In the 30 minutes it took him to die, none of the officers gave him first aid, the parents say. But the police abuse did not end when the officers “prematurely took his young and promising life,” according to the lawsuit.
     That evening, Officer Aaron Stringer took a trainee, Lindy DeGeare, to Kern Medical Center to view Villegas’ body under the guise of training purposes, the complaint states.
     “Instead of training DeGeare, defendant Stringer touched the bottom of James’ feet, saying ‘tickle tickle’ and stating that he ‘loves playing with dead bodies’ while laughing. Defendant Stringer afterwards told Ms. DeGeare that ‘if detectives ask if you’ve seen the body, just say no,'” according to the complaint.
     Aside from being “morally repugnant and wholly disrespectful,” Stringer’s conduct constituted “blatant tampering with the evidence” because he manipulated Villegas’s head and left leg, both places where he had been shot, his parents say.
     They call their son’s death a result of Bakersfield’s “radicalized police force” that has a “shoot first, avoid questions later” attitude and a “cover-up culture.”
     “Each officer is indoctrinated, beginning at the police academy, into a lack of respect for citizens in moments of life and death,” the lawsuit states. “Officers enter a trigger-happy culture in which allegations that a suspect was ‘reaching for his waistband’ or acting in a threatening manner are used to retroactively justify the killing of unarmed and compliant victims. Despite killing their son, and admittedly desecrating his body, the Bakersfield Police Department has not so much as offered an apology to James’s parents.”
     Bakersfield police have killed more than a dozen unarmed people in the past five years, according to the complaint, which claims Wimbish was involved in one of the shootings.
     On Sept. 16, 2013, officers shot and killed Jorge Ramirez, a confidential informant, according to the complaint.
     “Although the Bakersfield Police Department was aware that Mr. Ramirez was in the car with the suspect, the officers, including defendant Wimbish, opened fire on the vehicle. Struck by the gunfire, Mr. Ramirez exited the vehicle and was again shot multiple times as he attempted to flee, including one shot that struck him from behind. In total, Bakersfield police shot Mr. Ramirez 10 times. He was not armed,” the complaint states.
     Villegas’s family seeks punitive damages for civil rights violations, wrongful death, and tortious interference with Villegas’s body.
     They are represented by Mark Geragos with Geragos & Geragos. Ben Meiselas, with the firm and also representing the plaintiffs, said “we look forward to bringing this case before a jury and bringing justice to the Villegas-Delarosa family.”
     “They have endured the unthinkable. To learn that their unarmed son was shot dead after a taser failed to deploy, and then have his body manipulated, mocked, and degraded by police in the hospital. Since BPD has not held itself accountable, the legal system will,” he added.
     A Bakersfield Police Department representative told Courthouse News the department does not comment on pending litigation.

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