Anaheim cop accused of raping woman after tracking her from an In-N-Out

IN-N-OUT -- In-N-Out Burger sign in Camarillo, Calif., Saturday night, Aug. 20, 2005. -- Photo Credit: Robbin Goddard
According to the lawsuit, the woman was in a drive-through when she saw the police officer, and later received a Facebook request from him. (Robbin Goddard / Los Angeles Times)

An Orange County woman filed a federal lawsuit Monday against an Anaheim Police Department officer, alleging that he raped her after seeing her at an In-N-Out Burger and getting her name by running her license plate number.

The woman, who is referred to as Jane Doe in the lawsuit, sued former Officer Carlos Romero, the city of Anaheim and 10 members of the police department, alleging sexual battery and civil rights violations, among other claims.

Romero's alleged actions "were committed maliciously, oppressively and/or in reckless disregard of Plaintiff’s constitutional rights," the lawsuit states.

Romero was placed on paid administrative leave in 2023 after the allegations were brought to the attention of the police department, pending criminal and administrative investigations, Anaheim spokesperson Mike Lyster said in a Tuesday statement.

"We hold our police officers to the highest standards, and our police department thoroughly investigates all matters of employee misconduct," he said. "Beyond that, we need to respect restrictions under state law that prevent us from further comment on ongoing personnel investigations."

According to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court of Central California, the woman was in the drive-through at an In-N-Out on May 19, 2023, near Orange Avenue and Brookhurst Street when she noticed Romero smiling at her.

The next day, she got a Facebook request from Romero and asked him if he was the officer at In-N-Out, according to the lawsuit. Romero said that he was and explained he got her information by running her license plate. He then asked for and got the woman's phone number.

Romero started texting the woman, the suit alleges, even while she made it clear she wasn't interested in a romantic relationship. Over the next few months, Romero would text her and come to her house while on duty. The two would kiss but the woman refused to have sex when Romero asked, the suit alleges.

On Sept. 25, Romero asked if he could come over, but the woman told him she was having a "bad day" and that he shouldn't come over if he wanted to have sex. While on duty, Romero allegedly drove to her home in his patrol vehicle while wearing his uniform.

According to the lawsuit, Romero started kissing the woman and performed oral sex, which she consented to, but then he forcibly penetrated her with his fingers and penis after she repeatedly told him "no" and said his name to try to get him to stop. Romero also forced her to perform oral sex, the suit alleges.

The woman said in the lawsuit that she made it clear before and after Romero allegedly sexually assaulted her that she did not consent. His gun was on the couch in full view of the woman while he assaulted her, according to the suit.

The woman said she "was terrified and fearful for her life" and just wanted Romero to leave.

The suit alleges the woman suffered physical, emotional and mental injuries and has endured medical and psychological expenses and lost wages. She is seeking in excess of $7 million.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.