Nine women now describe groping by San Diego County sheriff's deputy

Sexual misconduct accusations against Deputy Richard Fischer continue to mount as four more women filed lawsuits or legal claims against the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department this week.

The latest allegations — two lawsuits and two claims — raise the number of complaints to nine. All of the alleged victims report similar stories of unwelcome hugs, groping and, in some cases, implied threats.

“When he clicked the seat belt into place, he rubbed L.R.’s breasts up and down using the heel of his hand and the inner part of his arm,” one of the new lawsuits alleges. “Fischer said, ‘Oh I hope your husband doesn’t mind.’”

That complaint, filed Wednesday in San Diego Superior Court by a woman who did not want to be publicly identified as a victim of sexual assault, accuses Fischer of accosting her five other times before she was released with a misdemeanor ticket last year.

“L.R. continues to be scared of law enforcement officers, and every time she sees a SDSO vehicle she wonders if it is Fischer and is frightened that Fischer may retaliate against her,” the lawsuit states.

Fischer was placed on desk duty in October after one woman came forward. He was put on formal leave last month after a slew of others came forward to report similar behavior after news stories by U-T Watchdog.

Sheriff’s Department officials have said little beyond confirming that they opened an internal investigation in October and subsequently launched a separate criminal probe.

The 31-year-old deputy has not responded to multiple requests for interviews.

Attorney Dan Gilleon represents all eight of the plaintiffs and claimants. He said one of his clients alerted the department to Fischer’s behavior more than a year and a half ago — and officials failed to take any action.

“It’s a thin blue line,” Gilleon said. “There’s a culture or a code within law enforcement where the first thing you do is you always have your partner’s back — until it’s obvious you can’t.”

One claim filed Thursday alleges Fischer stopped a woman in Vista last June about 1:30 a.m. and fondled her after learning that her driver’s license was suspended.

“I apologize if it seems like I’m holding your hands but you’re just so hot,” the claim quotes Fischer as telling her while he held the woman’s hands behind her back with one of his hands.

“With his free hand, Dep. Fischer groped claimant by sticking his hand in her deep front pockets and rubbing his hand on her vaginal area and by sticking his hand in her back pockets and rubbing her buttocks while making a comment about how he liked the shape of her body,” the claim added.

Another case filed this week involved a burglary victim who said Fischer returned to her home several hours after he and another deputy completed their initial report. He knew the woman’s husband was out of the country, the lawsuit states.

“T.S. was shocked and taken aback by the way Fischer hugged her because it did not feel as if Fischer was trying to convey that he was sorry for what had happened to her,” the suit said. “T.S. felt it was a ‘different kind of hug.’ Fischer’s hug was unsolicited and unwanted.”

The fourth allegation filed this week involves a woman who said Fischer pulled her over a second time, just after he and another deputy had advised her to replace a missing taillight. He followed her home for her own safety, the claim states.

“When they arrived at claimant’s home, Dep. Fischer asked the claimant for a hug and hugged her, his arms embracing her near the low back and top of the buttocks,” it said. “Dep. Fischer told claimant that she was very attractive and began to question her on whether she was married, lived alone, had roommates or a boyfriend.”

Fischer followed the women to her front gate but left when the male landlord appeared, the claim said.

Previously, five other women in recent weeks accused the deputy of repeated groping, unwelcome hugs, rubbing their hands against his genitals and other misconduct.

The claims and lawsuits against the San Diego Sheriff’s Department each seek in excess of $6 million, plus punitive damages against Fischer.

That amount is not unprecedented in local law enforcement. In 2014, the City of San Diego agreed to pay $5.9 million to a woman who said she was groped in a 7-Eleven restroom by one of its police officers.

jeff.mcdonald@sduniontribune.com (619) 293-1708 @sdutMcDonald

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