A four-year member of the San Diego Police Department was free on $130,000 bail Monday following his weekend arrest on suspicion of groping women in their 20s and 30s during pat-down searches, authorities said.
Officer Christopher Hays turned himself in about 1:30 p.m. Sunday at a sheriff's substation on Rancho Bernardo Road, per an agreement between the county District Attorney's Office, the San Diego Police Department and his attorney, police officials said.
The 30-year-old former Marine and married father of two -- whose father- in-law is Assistant San Diego police Chief Mark Jones -- posted bail shortly after being booked into jail on suspicion two counts of felony false imprisonment and three misdemeanor sexual battery counts, according to jail records.
If convicted, he will face 7 1/2 years behind bars, San Diego police Lt. Kevin Mayer said.
If the allegations are proven to be true, "this would be a termination case," San Diego Police Chief William Lansdowne said.
Hays had been under investigation on suspicion of improperly touching women while detaining them for various reasons, ranging from a domestic violence call to a suspected shoplifting incident, according to SDPD officials.
He has been on paid leave since the first allegation arose in late December. In mid-January, the case was forwarded to the San Diego County District Attorney's Office, which was tasked with reviewing it and filing charges. He has since been placed on unpaid leave.
Four alleged victims told investigators that Hays, assigned to the Mid- City Division, improperly touched them through their clothing, with no "skin- to-skin contact," Lansdowne said last week.
Two other cases remained under investigation -- one which involved sexual contact, Lansdowne said.
"He could be looking at more charges with the fifth and sixth victim," Lansdowne said.
Lansdowne noted that the investigation into the allegations was thorough from when the first accuser stepped forward in late December. Investigators also reviewed Hays' cases over the past four years.
However, many of the cases showed contact but no name, Lansdowne said.
It was the second time in three years that a member of the San Diego Police Department has been accused of sexual misconduct with female detainees.
In 2011, then-Officer Anthony Arevalos was accused of sexually assaulting five women during traffic stops for suspected drunken driving in the Gaslamp Quarter. He was later convicted and sentenced to almost nine years in prison and is currently seeking a new trial. So far, the city has agreed to pay out $2.3 million to settle lawsuits filed by Arevalos' victims.—City News Service