Last December, a Los Angeles cop was arrested after his own body camera captured him fondling a dead woman during a call to her residence.
Now the woman’s family is suing the LAPD officer, David Rojas, claiming he was negligent, invaded their privacy, inflicted emotional distress, and mishandled human remains. On Tuesday, the mother and son of the victim appeared at a press conference with high-profile lawyer Gloria Allred to announce the suit.
Janet Baggett was in tears while reading from a statement about what happened to her daughter, 34-year-old Elizabeth Baggett. She told reporters, “Shock and disgust does not even come close to describing the horror of hearing this news.”
“I am infuriated that this man had so little respect for another human being, our Elizabeth, for not having the thought that she is someone’s daughter, granddaughter, and mother,” Janet Baggett said, adding, “I want justice for my daughter because of this horrible, disgusting act. I live in fear that the video will surface and another devastation will be added to what is already unbearable.”
Rojas, 27, was charged with a felony count of having sexual contact with human remains in connection to the October 2019 incident. Rojas, a four-year member of the force, pleaded not guilty and was released on $20,000 bail. He faces three years in prison if convicted.
LAPD’s Internal Affairs unit cuffed Rojas after a supervisor reviewed the body camera footage, according to the Los Angeles Times, which first reported on the incident. The Times previously reported the agency would begin reviewing bodycam video at random to ensure officers are following protocol when dealing with the public.
Authorities say Rojas and his partner had responded to a call at Elizabeth Baggett’s residence and that she was dead when they arrived. (According to some local news reports, the officers were responding to a call of a fatal overdose.)
When the partner left the room and Rojas was alone with Elizabeth Baggett’s body, he allegedly turned off his body camera and fondled her breasts. But the device—which contains a two-minute buffer—captured Rojas groping her after he deactivated it.
“We allege in our lawsuit that after Elizabeth’s death, LAPD officer, David Rojas, fondled Elizabeth’s breasts and felt her nipples,” said Allred, who is also representing Elizabeth’s teenage son, Preston, and the boy’s father, Michael Sertich.
“This sexual contact with Elizabeth was allegedly recorded on the defendant’s bodycam, and the video also reportedly shows her naked form,” Allred added. “To make matters worse, this video has also been viewed by others.”
The Baggett family’s lawsuit also names the city of Los Angeles as a defendant, as well as officers identified only as Does 1 through 20.
According to the complaint, the defendants “publicly disclosed a private fact—the video of Decedent—which would be offensive and objectionable to the reasonable person” and “was not of legitimate public concern.”
The officer and defendants “owed a duty of care to the plaintiffs to refrain from having sexual contact with Decedent, creating video of Decedent, while partially nude and deceased for non-investigative purposes, to protect the plaintiffs’ privacy and property rights in such video, and to avoid foreseeable harm to them by distributing such imagery,” the complaint states.
At the press conference, Janet Baggett described her daughter as “loved by everyone who knew her and some she never met.”
“I am sitting here listening to Louis Armstrong singing ‘What a Wonderful World,’” Janet said. “I think of Elizabeth singing this song in a school recital once. I think to myself what a wonderful world it was with Elizabeth in it. The words of the song are so comforting.”
Elizabeth Baggett, who was raised in Texas, was an artist and painter who also went by the moniker “LucidLizard” in the art community. An obituary described her “magical spirit, unique soul, and her charismatic personality.”
“She lived life to the fullest and was always looking for a new adventure,” the obituary continued. “Her memory will live on through her art and countless friends and family who cherished her.”