RPD officer sent ‘sexually suggestive’ messages to head of a dispensary he was regulating, documents show
on November 23, 2016
Court documents submitted in an ongoing case indicate that Richmond Police Department Sergeant Michael Rood sent “numerous inappropriate and sexually suggestive” text messages to the head of a medical marijuana dispensary he was tasked with regulating.
The documents, submitted by both the plaintiff and the defendants in an ongoing lawsuit involving a group of medical marijuana dispensaries, were filed with the Contra Costa Superior Court on Nov. 3 and Nov. 9. Rood is a top-paid officer who has also been implicated in the case involving the woman formerly known as Celeste Guap.
The documents include a Nov. 7 declaration, a statement given under penalty of perjury, by Rebecca Vasquez, president and executive director of dispensary Holistic Healing Collective, in which she said that Rood sent her “inappropriate” text messages from January 2014 until March 2016. Rood stopped, she said, when he found out she was pregnant. (He is not the father of Vasquez’s child, her attorney said.)
At the time, Rood was assigned to the city’s Regulatory Unit, which is responsible for ensuring medical marijuana dispensaries comply with Richmond ordinances. Rood worked on the Regulatory Unit from January 2014 to August 2016.
An RPD spokesperson declined repeated requests for comment and said that Rood was unavailable for comment.
Vasquez was also unavailable for comment, according to her attorney.
In her sworn statement, Vasquez said she responded to Rood’s messages because she was afraid that if she didn’t, he would “take retaliatory action” against her dispensary permit.
Rood frequently texted and called Vasquez, she said, in addition to visiting her shop.
Vasquez provided the court with screenshots of text message exchanges between her and a contact named “Sgt Rood” in 2015. The contact makes reference to Vasquez’s “nice ass” and “sexy feet,” and, in a series of messages, his “love” for Vasquez.
In an Oct. 24 declaration for the same case—in which Vasquez is a defendant—Rood stated under oath that, “During my two and a half years as the Regulatory Unit Sergeant, I came to know most of the named defendants in this case. I had multiple face to face meetings and conversations with many of the defendants.”
Rood also said in the declaration that he had “multiple conversations and meetings” with Vasquez, but he did not mention text messages or phone calls.
In her declaration, Vasquez said that she “decided not to report the inappropriate text messages” after Rood was replaced with a female officer in June and she no longer feared his retaliation.
Rood said in his declaration that he “remained as the Regulatory Unit Sergeant until August 2016 when I was reassigned to patrol.” Vasquez’s declaration, however, says that Rood “was disciplined, demoted and removed from the Regulatory Unit” in June for his “improper sexual activity” with Guap.
In an email this week, Vasquez’s attorney, Natalia Thurston, said that Vasquez learned this from “news reports,” adding that it was “public knowledge” that Rood “was removed from the regulatory unit at the same time that he was implicated in the Celeste Guap case.”
In an interview with the Bay Area News Group—which includes The Mercury News and the East Bay Times—published on June 30, Guap said that Rood was among the officers with whom she had “sex or sexual contact” after she turned 18.
Both the RPD and the Richmond City Manager’s office declined to confirm or deny Rood’s involvement in the Guap case. City Manager Bill Lindsay said that state law prohibits the city from “disclosing disciplinary actions or personnel records of police officers.”
Rood is a 17-year veteran of the RPD and one of department’s best-paid officers, set to make more than $165,000 this year, according to city payroll documents.
A graduate of De Anza High School, he was hired as a full-time officer in August 1999 after attending the police academy and, a few years before that, Contra Costa Community College. In his declaration, Rood said that he has worked several beats on the RPD, including patrol and homicide detective.
This is not the only controversy that Rood has faced during his nearly two-decade tenure on the city’s police force.
In 2012, according to local news reports, Rood was criticized for a violent post on Twitter. Later that same year, Richmond Confidential reported that Rood had admitted to using fake evidence during interrogation of a murder suspect.
The year before both incidents, Rood had been promoted to sergeant.
In a Nov. 17 hearing on the ongoing case involving the dispensaries—which is an anti-trust lawsuit that alleges three Richmond dispensaries are illegally monopolizing the market—Judge Barry P. Goode said the documents would not be considered in the current case as they introduce allegations that were not in the original complaint.
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