Former LRPD officer to stand trial for five counts of rape

Former officer Noah Winchester on a ride-along in November of 2014. Former LRPD officer Noah Winchester on a ride-along in November of 2014. Winchester currently awaits trial for five counts of rape and remains in custody on $3.1 million bail, according to prosecutors. (File photo)

Former Los Rios police officer Noah Winchester was ordered on April 22 by a San Mateo County Superior Court judge to stand trial for allegedly raping five women.

Winchester was employed with the Los Rios Police Department from January 1, 2009 to January 16, 2015 before transferring to the San Mateo Police Department.

According to an article posted on Fox40’s web site, “prosecutors last year charged Winchester with raping the women between July 2013 and October 2015 while he served with the San Mateo Police Department and also as an officer for the Los Rios Community College District in Sacramento.”Originally, Winchester faced 22 charges,

including kidnapping with intent to commit rape, rape, sexual penetration and oral copulation under color of authority, sexual battery, criminal threats and forcible sex offenses,

according to San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe as reported by the L.A. Times.

Noah Winchester worked as an LRPD officer from 2009-2015. (Photo courtesy of San Mateo Sheriff’s Department.)

It wasn’t until fall 2015 that the San Mateo district attorney began the investigation after accusers came forward with allegations that Winchester had sexually assaulted them while serving as as officer for the Los Rios Police Department, according to abc’s website.

As reported in a previous article by the L.A. times American River College’s former Public Information Officer Mitchel Benson said “We are appalled to think they (the allegations) could be true.”

Now in the wake of Winchester’s coming trial there is talk from the Los Rios Board of Trustees for modifying LRPD general orders.

Gabe Ross the Associate Vice Chancellor/ Communications and Media Relations said they are “reexamining general orders to see if any areas may warrant re-evaluation now,” following the recent update for the Winchester case.

After the sexual assault complaints came to light in San Mateo County, protocol was followed.                                                                                          

District attorney for Winchester’s case in San Mateo County, Stephen M. Wagstaffe said “every agency and college does a debriefing on it.”

He mentioned questions they ask themselves such as “what could we do next time? Were we thorough with them?”

He also said there should always be “a day after analysis” of the case.

The LRPD could not be reached for comment on whether it is following San Mateo’s practices and declined to elaborate what steps it is taking to ensure future legitimate allegations made by sex crime victims are treated properly.

The investigative process for Los Rios is unknown because the “law presents us from sharing specific details about their investigation,” Ross said.

But with what information they can release their “goal is to be as transparent as possible,” Ross said.

As far as how thorough the investigation was conducted there was“no indication they could’ve done anything more,” and that they have the “best practices in regards to hiring officers,” Ross said.

The reason SPD intervened and led the investigation  was because the LRPD did “not have sufficient investigative resources to handle (the) particular case,” Ross said.

According to Ross, the reason LRPD “did not make an arrest or pursue charges” was because “the decision was made by the investigating agency- Sacramento Police Department.”

In respect to SPD’s decision to close the case, “We had what they didn’t have and that’s five separate victims,”  Wagstaffe said.

Little is known about the information San Mateo received from the LRPD or SPD when Winchester became an officer for San Mateo’s County Police Department.

“Our independent review of this matter has concluded that San Mateo’s representatives were provided with all available information by LRPD at the time of their inquiry and that LRPD acted appropriately based on the information available at the time,” Ross said in an email to the Current.

Also the details and whereabouts of Winchester’s resignation letter are unknown according to Wagstaffe.

“I don’t know about the resignation letter but I will look into it,” he said.

Pretrial and trial dates will be set on Winchester’s court date, May 5.

Benson could not be reached for a comment  in light of Winchester’s new charges.

ARC President Thomas Greene declined to comment, but Greene relayed a message through the college’s Public Information Officer Scott Crow.

“Since the Los Rios Police Department is a district, not a college-coordinated function, the district is in a better position to answer the below questions,” said Crow via email.

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About the Author

Cheyenne Drury
Cheyenne Drury is a third-semester student on the American River Current, where she serves as the Editor-in-chief. She previously served as arts and culture editor and news editor. She is double majoring in journalism and photojournalism. She has competed in softball, cross country and track all at the college level. She was published in the American River Review, the award winning college literary magazine.

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