Woman who says CHP officer sexually assaulted her, followed her home to get $4.5 million

California Highway Patrol officers are seeking information regarding a hit-and-run collision between a Ford Edge and a bicyclist in Ramona on Wednesday, Oct. 2. The bicyclist, Michelle Scott, is being monitored around the clock in intensive care at Palomar Medical Center in Escondido.
After more than three years of litigation, the CHP and the state have agreed to pay $4.5 million to settle a Santa Ana woman's federal lawsuit. (Los Angeles Times)

She was a passenger in a Ford Expedition on the Santa Ana Freeway when California Highway Patrol Officer Xavier Aguirre pulled the vehicle over and cited the driver for driving without a license.

That's when the 47-year-old mother of three claims the nightmare began. After the initial stop, she says Aguirre walked to his cruiser, turned off the video camera and directed her to the back of the SUV.

Then, under the guise of a frisk for weapons, he groped her genitalia and breasts at the side of one of California's busiest stretches of freeway, she said.

The officer later turned up at her Santa Ana home, and she alleges he maneuvered her next to his police car and sexually assaulted her again, using the vehicle doors to hide what he was doing.

He denies any wrongdoing and has not be charged criminally. He is no longer a CHP officer.

Another female motorist alleged that just hours earlier that day in 2018, Aguirre groped her too, court records show.

After more than three years of litigation, the CHP and the state have agreed to pay $4.5 million to settle the Santa Ana woman's federal lawsuit.

“This was an outrageous abuse of police power by Officer Aguirre. He was in uniform, on duty, and used his power as a patrolman to detain and then sexually assault this poor lady. And he did it twice. On the same day. She was beyond scared,” said Dave Ring, who represented the woman along with attorney Neda Lotfi. The survivor is not being named by The Times as a victim of sexual assault. Aguirre was terminated after an internal investigation, records show.

Aguirre in several court filings has denied any wrongdoing during the traffic stops and the visit to the 47-year-old's apartment complex. He could not be reached for comment.

In April 2019, the Orange County district attorney's office informed the CHP it was declining to charge Aguirre after an investigation by Santa Ana police, documents show.

During a deposition in the lawsuit, Aguirre, who was 23 at the time of the stop, was asked to explain why he turned off his video camera, and he claimed he was nervous and scared for his safety. He later said he patted her down because he may have seen a bulge on the woman that could have been a weapon.

A CHP investigation would later determine he misused a law enforcement database to find the woman's apartment and appeared in uniform at her door.

Security surveillance video from the apartment complex showed him arriving, spotting the woman and directing her toward his patrol car, according to court filings.

A second woman claimed in a lawsuit that Aguirre sexually assaulted her too.

The young woman was in a two-car collision on the southbound 55 Freeway near the Warner Avenue exit. Aguirre was the first CHP officer at the scene and sent the other car away, she says.

Before putting her in the back seat of his patrol car, he told her he needed to search her for contraband and allegedly fondled her breasts over and under her shirt and groped her buttocks, waist and thighs, according to her lawsuit filed in 2019. "This 'search' occurred at least two times when Plaintiff exited and re-entered the vehicle," the suit alleged.

That case was settled in July by the state as a trial approached.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.