Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Salinas police officer Jesus Sánchez was arrested and booked in Monterey County Jail on three felony counts of assault with intent to commit rape, according to Police Chief Louis Fetherolf.
Sánchez—who has been with the Salinas Police Department for more than a decade, has served as a school resource officer among other assns and until recently was Alisal High’s varsity soccer coach—was released on $300,000 bail and put on paid administrative leave.
A Salinas woman complained to the department last week, alleging Sánchez had assaulted her on multiple occasions over several years while in uniform. The District Attorney’s office is handling the criminal investigation, Fetherolf says, but the department is investigating whether Sánchez violated any departmental policies as well.
Fetherolf declines to go into detail about the complaint because it is still under investigation. But he does say that through interviews with the alleged victim, witnesses and Sánchez, internal investigators determined there was probably cause to make an arrest.
“Everything rose to the level of probable causes immediately,” he says.
Three months ago Fetherolf took up the challenge of cleaning up the violence-riddled city as Salinas’ new police chief. As the Weekly reported last month, much of his focus has been on regaining the community’s trust.
The department’s tough stance against Sánchez may be interpreted as the beginning of a new era of accountability in the department. “We just need to hold a high professional standard,” Fetherolf says. “Hopefully that will send a message to other potential victims, if there are any, that they can come forward and have faith that we will invest it thoroughly.
The chief is quick to add that the incident appears to be isolated. “This came out of left field. This is a complete aberration and it took everyone by surprise, including myself,” he says. “There is no evidence, no even inclination or question as to whether anyone else was involved in this.”
Fetherolf expects the DA’s office to look further into the question of whether any other officers knew about Sánchez’s alleged misconduct. “The legal beagles will be digging into that aspect of it,” he says. “We are asking if anyone else has been connected to this officer...We want to know about it.”
Sánchez’s arrest has rattled morale within the department, Fetherolf adds, describing other officers’ reactions as a mix of “shock, disappointment, a little bit of anger, compassion, disbelief.
“The man has been here for 10 years and had close professional and personal relationships with everyone here,” he says. “It’s just one of those imponderables. You wonder why something like this happens.”
The District Attorney’s office is reviewing the case to determine whether to file criminal charges, according to Assistant DA Stephanie Hulsey. Sánchez is scheduled for arraignment July 15. “I anticipate that we will have a decision by then,” she says.