EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

February 28, 2013

Cop arrested on sex charge

By Jill Harmacinski

---- — LAWRENCE — Police officer Carlos Gonzalez is accused of sexually assaulting a child while he was on vacation in Florida last summer.

Gonzalez, 48, was at Massachusetts School of Law in Andover, where he is studying to be a lawyer, when he was arrested and charged on a fugitive from justice warrant at 3 p.m. yesterday, police said.

A police officer since May 1988, Gonzalez is charged by Haines City, Fla. police with sexual battery by a custodian on a person between ages 12 and 18 and selling, giving or serving alcohol to a person under age 21, police said yesterday.

Haines City is located between Tampa and Orlando in Florida.

The victim, who was not identified by police yesterday, told police she was assaulted on July 22, 2012 in a private home, police said.

Detectives from Haines City flew to Massachusetts yesterday to arrest Gonzalez. He was taken into custody by Lawrence police, who were assisted by Andover police at the law school, and booked afterwards at the Lawrence Police Department.

He was held overnight without bail and is scheduled for arraignment today in Lawrence District Court on the fugitive from justice charge.

Police Chief John Romero said Lawrence detectives launched an immediate investigation after the victim reported the incident here in December.

“Even though we did not have jurisdiction, the fact he was a Lawrence police office prompted an investigation,” Romero said.

Gonzalez, who earns $60,000 annually, was placed on paid administrative on Dec. 17 as police investigated. However, in light of his arrest yesterday, Romero said Gonzalez’s pay status is now “under review.”

If he is indicted in Florida, Romero said the city can halt Gonzalez’s pay and possibly terminate him.

However, Mayor William Lantigua, the appointing authority, has allowed three police officers, including two facing felony indictments, to remain on paid administrative leave for months.

Deputy Chief Melix Bonilla, who earns $140,000 annually, was indicted on felony charges in September in an ongoing investigation into Lantigua and his administration. Bonilla is accused of swapping 13 city-owned vehicles for four Chevrolets with a Lantigua friend. The state Inspector General said the city lost $30,000 in the deal.

Also in September, Officer PJ Lopez was indicted by a federal grand jury. He’s accused of making arrangements with a local tow company to have cars he ticketed towed in exchange for a “stream of benefits” including a $4,000 snow plow. Lopez faces charges of bribery, making false statements to a federal agency and obstruction of justice in connection with an unnamed towing company in Lawrence.

And officer Daron Fraser is on paid administrative leave again after he was accused of assaulting a superior officer on Jan. 27. Fraser allegedly “belly-bumped” a sergeant in the 90 Lowell St. police station after an argument over a television being on and whether a door should be closed.

A hearing will be held Friday in Lawrence District Court to determine if Fraser will face criminal charges over the incident.

In July 2010, Fraser was placed on paid administrative leave after he was arrested and charged with beating his then-girlfriend. A Haverhill jury later convicted Fraser of domestic assault and battery for putting his knee on his ex-girlfriend’s throat and gagging her.

Despite Romero’s requests to fire him, Fraser, who earns $60,000 annually, remained on the payroll until October 2012. During his 29 months of paid suspension, Fraser earned more than $150,000 and also continued to accrue sick and vacation time and benefits.

In addition to Haines City police, Romero said Lawrence detectives also conferred with the District Attorney’s office and the state’s Department of Children and Families as they investigated the allegations against Gonzalez.

Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter under the screenname EagleTribJill.