Coming forward

2 cops accused of “preying on,” raping vulnerable women in L.A.

Los Angeles Police Department headquarters. (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Two police officers are under investigation by the Los Angeles Police Department’s internal affairs division after court records reviewed by the Los Angeles Times found that James Nichols and Luis Valenzuela raped at least four vulnerable women in the last five years, threatening jail time if they did not perform sex acts. All of the women knew the narcotics officers from prior arrests or after having served as informants to the Hollywood Division. Nichols has been in the department for 12 years; Valenzuela has been a police officer for 15 years and faces an additional count of assault with a firearm, accused him of pointing a gun at one victim, according to the New York Times. Both were arrested this week and face a Thursday arraignment.

Accusations against the pair first came forward in 2010, when a woman said the officers — whom she knew — pulled up alongside her in plainclothes and threatened to take her to jail unless she got in the car, where she was assaulted. A different woman came forward the next year with a similar story, claiming that Valenzuela said, “Why don’t you cut out that tough girl crap?” while unzipping his pants and forcing her to perform oral sex, according to the warrant obtained by the Los Angeles Times. She did not report the incident out of humiliation and for fear of not being believed — similar sentiments to those of the victims of police officer Daniel Holtzclaw, who was sentenced to 263 years in prison last month for raping vulnerable women while on duty in Oklahoma.

“These two officers have disgraced themselves, they’ve disgraced this badged, they’ve disgraced their oath of office,” Chief Charlie Beck said at a press conference on Wednesday, noting that Nichols and Valenzuela “preyed on folks that are sometimes reluctant witnesses, reluctant victims.” Investigations into the behavior of the men began two years ago, but stalled continuously until last week when one victim filed suit against one of the officers. Both men would face life in prison if convicted.

Read the full story at The Los Angeles Times.

 

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