More Women Come Forward In SDPD Sexual Battery Case

SDPD Officer Anthony Arevalos Accused In Sexual Battery Of Woman, 32

The official number of women accusing a veteran San Diego police officer of trying to elicit sexual favors during separate traffic stops was up to four Thursday.

Officer Anthony Arevalos, 40, was arrested last Friday on suspicion of sexual battery, false imprisonment and assault under the color of authority, according to SDPD Lt. Andra Brown. At the time, Arevalos was only accused by a 32-year-old woman he pulled over on suspicion of drunken driving late in the evening on March 8, as she was leaving the Gaslamp Quarter following Mardi Gras celebrations.

The woman, who was not arrested, reported the alleged crime the next day. Two days later, Arevalos was arrested and San Diego Police Chief Bill Lansdowne encouraged others with similar stories to come forward. Now, they are.

San Diego police Capt. Terry McManus told 10News, "Several have come forward. I'm not going to provide you with the number but several have come forward since the press conference last week."

McManus said detectives are in the process of interviewing potential victims and witnesses.

"The goal of our interview is to determine is her story similar? And is she potentially a victim or not?" said McManus.

Since then, police have reopened an investigation stemming from a similar complaint made by a second woman in February 2010. Lansdowne said there was not enough evidence in the February 2010 complaint against Arevalos at the time to file charges.

Then on Monday, a 21-year-old San Diego State student who is currently studying abroad, filed a new complaint against Arevalos regarding a Dec. 29 encounter.

The woman said she was pulled over about 1:30 a.m. in downtown San Diego because she had expired tags, and that Arevalos asked her to exit her vehicle before making several "inappropriate" comments, such as "What do you have under that coat?" and "We can go to my back seat."

Kerry Armstrong, the attorney for the 21-year-old woman, told 10News, "He said that he smelled alcohol coming out of her car, so then he asked her to step out so he could talk to her. Basically, over the next 45 minutes or so, he essentially propositioned her and said that if she did certain things to him that he could possibly make her ticket go away."

He also allegedly said, "I don't have to take you to jail" and "We can take care of this."

"She felt very scared, very threatened, and luckily for her, after about 45 minutes another officer pulled up and that's when the inappropriate comments stopped," Armstrong added.

After the second officer arrived on scene, Arevalos cited the woman with driving with alcohol in her system and released her.

"I think she was lucky because she wasn't touched, she wasn't forced to do anything against her will," said Armstrong.

The fourth woman to come forward was stopped for DUI in the Gaslamp Quarter on Feb. 20. The 25-year-old alleges that while handcuffed, the thin straps on her top kept falling down and Arevalos repeatedly pulled the straps back up in a slow and deliberate manner while rubbing her arm, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

Then, while driving her to jail, he allegedly made comments about the two of them getting together and that he wished he'd met her under different circumstances, according to the newspaper.

Former police officer Kevin LaChappelle said he believes any DUI case against these women may now be challenged.

"It's not so much they would actually discount the DUIs, but they're going to be very, very careful to examine the elements of this case," said LaChappelle. "They're going to be very critical as far as what were the circumstances that led to the traffic stop."

Local DUI attorneys are now scouring their files to see if they can connect Arevalos to their clients' cases and have the DUI charges thrown out.

"Obviously, it goes to the character of the officer, and if it's something involving the officer on duty, it's an underlying issue that's going to affect his credibility in any case that he's involved in, not only DUIs," said DUI attorney Paul Neuharth.

Neuharth said he's found two open cases connected to Arevalos, but wouldn't say if the defendants were women.

"[Regardless] of the gender of my clients, we're still going to pursue that the same, because his credibility is at stake on every single case, every single arrest, every single traffic stop," said Neuharth.

Arevalos is out on bail. His arraignment is set for next Monday.

In 1997, the District Attorney's Office cleared Arevalos in the wounding of Laura Pinon, 18, of San Ysidro, who pointed a fake gun that looked like an Uzi at some passing cars, including police, the Union-Tribune reported.

Another officer, Art Perea, resigned earlier this month while under investigation for allegedly raping a college student in El Cajon.

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