Police seek information in Watsonville battery case

December 24, 2011 12:33:15 PM PST
A woman who stopped at a taco restaurant at a Watsonville shopping center on her way home early Friday told police a man she thought was an officer forcibly stripped off her pants and underwear, according to police.

Police were told Friday morning about the sexual battery incident that had occurred around 3:45 a.m. in the 1400 block of Main Street at the Target shopping center parking lot.

The victim reported she was driving back to her home from out of town when she stopped at the Del Taco restaurant at the Watsonville shopping center to eat. After she ate she decided to nap before driving while sleepy. A man she thought was a police officer then awakened her. The man asked for her ID and if she had any drugs or weapons on her. When she told the man she didn't have anything illegal the man accused her of placing items down her pants, police said.

The man then forcibly pulled down her pants and underwear with his hand, police said. After he got the woman's phone number he told her she could leave.

When the victim left the area she called Watsonville police, according to police.

Investigating officers determined that the man who had sexually abused the victim was from the Santa Cruz Peninsula Private Security Company that is contracted by the Target shopping center to patrol the area. The security guard was identified as Jose Moreno, 43, and was found with the victim's phone number.

He was arrested on suspicion of sexually battery and booked into Santa Cruz County Jail, police said.

Security guards working within Watsonville are required to wear a distinct uniform that identifies them as security guards and not law enforcement, police explained.

Police encourage residents to look for official uniform distinctions and to ask any dubious law enforcement officers for their official government-issued identification card. If a person claiming to be a police officer cannot properly identify him or herself as a law enforcement officer, someone should call 911.

Anyone with information about the case in the Target parking lot is encouraged to call the Watsonville Police Department's Investigation Division at (831) 768-3350 or any anonymous tip line at (831) 768-3544.


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