Los Angeles Police Department officer David Rojas thought he had turned off his body camera just before committing a vile act. He must have forgotten there was a two-minute delay before shutoff. In October 2019, the body cam caught him caressing the breasts of a 34-year-old woman dead of a drug overdose.
In December, he was charged with one felony count of “having sexual contact with human remains without authority.” Now the family of the dead woman, Elizabeth Baggett, is suing Rojas for the invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and the mishandling of human remains.
Rojas, 27, a four-year LAPD veteran, was placed on administrative leave after the incident. Since his arrest, he is free on $20,000 bail while awaiting trial. He has pleaded not guilty. His trial has been postponed due to the pandemic. Rojas faces up to three years in prison if convicted.
Groped Breasts and Felt Nipples
On October 20, Rojas and his partner responded to a call regarding a dead body in a home. They found the body of Baggett, and Rojas’ partner left him alone with the corpse to get something out of the patrol car. When he was alone, Rojas then switched off his camera and groped the breasts of the corpse and felt the nipples.
No Defense from Police Union
Rojas’ actions were discovered during an investigation into Baggett’s death. Los Angeles Police Protective League president Craig Lally said he has never heard of any similar incident in his 39-year career. He said if the allegations are true, Rojas has no place in law enforcement.
The union has declined to defend Rojas. Lally termed the behavior “beyond the pale.” He also apologized to Barrett’s family.
So Little Respect for Another Human Being
Janet Baggett, Elizabeth’s mother, said at a news conference announcing the lawsuit that she was infuriated that Rojas had so little respect for another human being. She said he did not have a thought for the fact that Elizabeth Baggett was “someone’s daughter, granddaughter, and mother.” The lawyer representing the family said Rojas’ actions went against all sense of human decency.
Janet Baggett said her family has sleepless nights and is haunted by the circumstances of their loved one’s death. She is also afraid the video will somehow surface and cause further devastation.
The LAPD informed Janet Baggett of the incident in December. She says her family, including Elizabeth Baggett’s 15-year-old son, Preston Sertich, have been trying to come to terms with the desecration of the body ever since.
How Can You Employ This Man?
In an emotional statement read by the attorney, Sertich asks if Rojas had a pattern of such behavior, and wondered what else he might have gotten away with. “How can [the LAPD] employ this man and let him represent your city?” he asked. Sertich added that he formerly wanted to pursue a career in law enforcement but this incident has caused him to lose all trust in police.
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