Roughly one month after the police-on-police shooting that shook Santa Maria and the nation, the underage Police Explorer who was reportedly having a sexual relationship with slain officer Albert Covarrubias, Jr., is fighting back.
In late February, the Woodland Hills-based law offices of Goldberg and Gage sent a notice of governmental claim to the city of Santa Maria on behalf of “Jane Doe,” identified in the notice as the “Explorer raped by Santa Maria Police Officer Albert Covarrubias, Jr.”
Such a notice is usually the first stage in the process of filing a suit.
The notice reads, in part:
“Jane Doe, a minor and an explorer for the City of Santa Maria was supposed to be under the protection of the City of Santa Maria as a participant in the Police Explorers a group of young adults who are interested in pursuing careers in law enforcement. As such these explorers assist the police department. Commencing on or about new years eve, December 31, 2011 and onto January 1, 2012 Santa Maria Police Officer Albert Covarrubias Jr. embarked upon a nefarious scheme to intimidate and rape Jane Doe. In direct violation of rules and procedures set in place to avoid injury or harm to explorers, the City of Santa Maria allowed Police Officer Albert Covarrubias Jr., to take Jane Doe a minor in the care and under the protection of the Santa Maria explorer program in a vehicle after midnight. Albert Covarrubias, Jr. drove the minor female explorer during the course and scope of his employment with the City of Santa Maria and started to intimidate and harass her by attempting to engage in unwanted sexual advances.
“The unwanted sexual advances continued without abatement, with the knowledge and acquiescence of the City of Santa Maria and its police department who watched Albert Covarrubias, Jr. engage in improper conduct of sexual harassment, sexual battery, false imprisonment, assault, battery, witness intimidation, and rape during the month of January 2012 until police officer Albert Covarrubias, Jr. was killed by fellow police officers.”
Covarrubias was killed in the early morning hours of Jan. 28, shot by police after he drew his weapon on fellow officers there to arrest him on suspicion that he had engaged in an “inappropriate and explicit” sexual relationship with a 17-year-old girl. Covarrubias reportedly knew of the investigation before officers came to arrest him.
The notice goes on to claim that the city disseminated information that led to Jane Doe’s identification, which in turn led to her being subject to “ridicule, contempt, hatred” and her having to leave her school.
“The City of Santa Maria was on notice of these sexual assaults, witness intimidation and deadly threats, however it allowed these actions to continue,” the notice reads. “Finally, The City of Santa Maria decided to conduct an arrest on Albert Covarrubias, Jr., who was killed in a shoot out with police.”
The notice’s description of the “injury, damage or loss incurred” includes “general and special damages, the full specifics of which are not yet fully known … .” The notice is dated Feb. 17, 2012; is signed by Terry M. Goldberg; and was marked received by the Santa Maria city clerk on Feb. 21.
Goldberg, when contacted by the Sun, declined to add any information or comment. Assistant City Attorney Philip Sinco said the city had no comment, as the issue involves an open investigation.
In the aftermath of the shooting, a majority of the union representing most sworn officers for the Santa Maria Police Department expressed “no confidence” in Police Chief Danny Macagni. The union made an announcement of its no-confidence vote on Feb. 24.
According to the union, 85 percent of the 93 officers who returned a ballot voted that they had no confidence in the chief. The union represents 119 members.
Santa Maria Police Officers’ Association President Chris Nartatez, who is a cousin of Covarrubias and one of the arresting officers at the scene the night of the shooting, declined to answer questions about connections between the officer’s death and the vote.
“We’re not talking about one specific incident that led to this … this has been an ongoing thing,” Nartatez said. “Unfortunately, we’ve been going through some rough times, telling them what our concerns are. Have we seen changes? No, not really.” ∆
Executive Editor Ryan Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.