The administrative and criminal investigation reports alleging ex-police Chief Marcelino Nuno violated department policy, and may have committed acts of criminal sexual misconduct were obtained by the Irrigator through a Public Records Act request made in August 2020 as part of an ongoing probe into Nuno’s quiet retirement.
The Irrigator previously reported that Nuno was placed on administrative leave in April 2020 for what was then described by Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department Undersheriff Mickey LaBarbera and Patterson Mayor Deborah Novelli as “a personnel matter not related to the City of Patterson.”
The final administrative report received by the Irrigator on Dec. 17 was sent to the disciplinary review board in June 2020 resulting in the recommendation that Nuno be terminated for the violations of department policy.
A statement from Sheriff Dirkse’s office explains, “Nuno was starting the process to appeal his termination while he was on administrative leave. On Aug. 10, 2020, Nuno retired from the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department. Although the investigation complaints were sustained and discipline had been recommended, his retirement effectively closed the case, and any opportunity for him to appeal any disciplinary actions.”
Reports of Investigation
Both documents have redacted the names of the alleging recruit, witnesses who were interviewed, and the investigators who conducted the investigations.
Each report contains the timeline of events, the details of the accusations made against Nuno, summaries of the interview narratives that took place during the two separate investigations, and narrative of the security camera footage from inside the gym. The misconduct is claimed to have occurred in the weight room which is connected to the gym but has no video coverage.
Prior to his retirement Nuno was the subject of an administrative investigation as well as a criminal investigation after a complaint of inappropriate on-duty conduct was made by a female recruit from the San Joaquin Sheriff’s Department.
The misconduct was alleged to have occurred at the Stanislaus Sheriff Regional Training Center. The training center was hosting a basic police academy where Nuno was serving as a Defensive Tactics training officer for Academy Class 184. Academy Class 184 was composed of recruits from area law enforcement agencies including: Modesto Police Department, San Joaquin Sheriff’s Department, Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Department, Oakdale Police Department, and Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department.
Nuno is alleged to have inappropriately touched the recruit over the course of two “role playing” training scenarios on April 22, 2020.
The role playing scenarios were set up to teach recruits proper techniques for searching for concealed objects, such as drug paraphernalia and weapons.
In preparation for the scenario a recruit or training officer dressed in civilian clothes would be guided by a training officer to conceal prop knives, guns and other objects in their clothing, on their person, and in their shoes while out of sight of the rest of the recruit class. The “role player” would then rejoin the class at which point the recruits would be instructed on proper searching techniques to maximize success in locating concealed objects to ensure public and law enforcement safety, while also maintaining professional contact with the subject.
Statement of allegations taken from the Administrative Investigations Report
“Chief Nuno placed the weapons inside her pants over her underwear, inside the back of her pants over her intergluteal cleft, under her bra at the bottom of her breast and under her bra on the side of her breast.
Nuno stuck his hand inside the female recruit’s pants, with the backside of his hand towards the recruit in an attempt to feel the training weapon he had concealed.
While Chief Nuno was concealing the training weapons, he asked the female recruit what kind of underwear she was wearing. The female recruit said, “black,” and Chief Nuno said, “No, are you wearing a thong?” and she said “no.”
This was conducted in the weight room of the academy, where they were out of sight of other recruits and academy staff.”
Response by Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department
The female recruit stated that she did not tell anyone in her chain of command her claims against Nuno on Aug. 22. She said that she shared the information with another recruit on their way home as they carpool together. However, it is reported that by the end of the day on Aug. 22 multiple members of leadership at the training center were made aware of the allegations through the chain of command.
From what can be deciphered in the redacted report, a squad leader from Class 184 approached the class leader of Class 184 with claims that a female recruit had reported a sexual misconduct allegation against Nuno. The class leader then reported the allegations to the Recruit Training Officer.
On April 23 at approximately 8:30 a.m. the lead investigator of this administrative investigation was briefed of the misconduct allegations. By 11 a.m. of the same day two Sergeants responded to the training center and began interviewing recruits from Class 184. By 12:30 p.m. all law enforcement agencies that were represented in Class 184 had been notified of the investigation. At 1:51 p.m. the first interview was conducted by the Detective who was assigned to the criminal investigation.
On April 23 at approximately 4:30 p.m. Chief Nuno was informed that an investigation of his conduct had been undertaken. On April 24 Chief Nuno was placed on paid administrative leave and escorted home from the Patterson Substation by the lead administrative investigator.
The female recruit was chosen to be the “role player” during an arrest and search training scenario. Reports state she was chosen due to having previously attended this portion of the academy training. “She had previously gone through the academy and had already completed this section.” It was “believed that the learning value for this recruit was far less than the others.” Reports also state that a female role player was chosen as the participants of Class 184 were “having difficulty searching females.”
It is not clear from the reports who chose the recruit to be role player. Nuno states in his interview that it was a training officer other than himself that suggested her. An unidentified training officer claimed that Nuno chose the Recruit. The female recruit stated that an unidentified training officer other than Nuno chose her to be the role player.
The female recruit was instructed by an unidentified training officer other than Nuno to “go to the locker room and change into civilian clothes that were baggy to conceal items.” After doing so she walked into the “empty gym” where she was to meet Nuno who had the props that were to be concealed on her person. She stated that she “was called to the weight room by Nuno.” She reported that Nuno placed multiple training props on her person, some in intimate areas, without her permission. According to an interview with an unidentified instructor, weapons are to “be hidden in areas that are uncomfortable to search but not inappropriate.” It was reported by the recruit that this behavior was repeated a second time after the first search exercise.
The female recruit stated that she “felt awkward” while Nuno placed the items, and “felt uncomfortable because she did not expect to feel Nuno’s hands down her pants.” She also stated that she “did not know what Nuno’s intent was. She felt “weirded out” and thought it was different having someone else place items on her like he did. She explained that typically, if an instructor wants something concealed on her, the instructor will give it to her, so she can place it herself, rather than having someone physically place it on her.”
The recruit explained that she “did not feel like a victim. She knew it was wrong, knew it was inappropriate and not okay, but did not know how to say “no” because Chief Nuno was of such a high rank and she was beneath his rank.”
At the end of the training exercises Nuno invited the female recruit to his vehicle at which point he “gifted” her five or six challenge coins. Traditionally, challenge coins are a small coin or medallion bearing an organization's insignia or emblem. They might be given to prove membership when challenged, and to enhance morale. They are often collected by service members and law enforcement personnel. “Recruit” was the only one to receive coins from Nuno.
Interview with Nuno
On the advice of his attorney Nuno refused to give a voluntary statement during the criminal investigation. However, he was interviewed during the administrative investigation and although there are similarities, his story differs from that of his accuser.
Nuno was unsure if he or an unidentified instructor told the female recruit to meet him in the weight room. “Chief Nuno said because people were still in the gym, he went in the weight room and she was already in there. No one else was in the weight room.”
He admitted to asking what type of underwear the recruit was wearing but insisted it was not for sexual reasons. Nuno claims that “he wanted to make sure they would be able to put the prop in the underwear area so that it holds and it doesn’t fall into her pants.” Nuno said, “because I had this happen to role players before.” He denied asking her if she “was wearing a thong.” Nuno claims that he did not place any items inside of the female recruit’s pants or bra. He alleges that she is responsible for pulling the waist of her pants forward to show that there was room to conceal objects. When confronted with the allegation that he placed the mock weapon in the front of her pants between her underwear and zipper he said he “never did that.” He did admit to adjusting the prop through her pants in the accepted “pinch and roll” technique that is taught in defensive tactics.
Nuno alleges that the conversation about the female recruit’s underwear and the waist of her pants being pulled away happened as he was walking into the weight room.
He also stated that she lifted her shirt and began concealing items in her bra near her breasts when he told her to place the items on her person. The female recruit reported that she was unsure if it was she or Nuno who lifted her shirt. Nuno admitted to adjusting some of the items in her bra to better conceal them but denies touching her with sexual intent.
Chief Nuno was asked “if he has been trained in placing training weapons on a recruit of the opposite sex, to assist them in placing the props on their person and doing this in a one-on-one scenario.” He responded, if it’s going in their back pocket or their boots, “yeah, I was taught this at our academy. Not like put it in their bra or whatever, but you can adjust it. To facilitate the technique.” Nuno also said, “you are not making it perverted or sexual in nature, this is your training, this is a life and death situation, this is what you are getting into their mindset.”
When asked about “Recruit’s” demeanor during the concealment of the items Nuno said, “at no time did she say anything, reacted, or make any gestures indicating ‘you’re crossing the line.’”
The investigator asked Nuno to consider whether this interaction with the female recruit was appropriate, keeping in mind his many sexual harassment classes and supervisor classes. He told the investigator, repeatedly, that the interaction was “absolutely not” inappropriate.
“I asked Chief Nuno, ‘As a Lieutenant, and as an instructor, is it your responsibility to identify when something is inappropriate that is occurring with the recruit?’ Chief Nuno said, ‘Absolutely.’” “I asked him, ‘With your experience and training, you are telling me, that interaction was not inappropriate at all?’ Chief Nuno said he did not see it as inappropriate he did not read into it because his whole intent was training; there was no sexual connotation behind it.’”
Multiple witness statements from instructors claim that training officers would not place items on the role player’s person. Role players would sometimes receive guidance on places to hide items but the role player was responsible for placement of concealed items. All instructors that were interviewed agreed that this behavior was not “best practice,” and they would not participate in such concealment practices.
The “Academy Director,” an unidentified Lieutenant, was asked “if it was appropriate for an instructor to pull a recruit’s pants out and place an inert weapon inside the front of her pants. He said, “No.” When asked if it would be appropriate for an instructor to pull a recruit’s bra out and place an inert weapon inside the bra, he said, “No.” When asked if it would be appropriate for an instructor to lift the shirt of a recruit, the Lieutenant said, “for an instructor to do that, absolutely not.” When asked if the Lieutenant, as Academy Director, would have allowed a male instructor to bring a female recruit to an isolated location to place items on her, he said, absolutely not. “You don’t want anything to jeopardize the credibility of the program. It’s not appropriate.”
An unnamed Sergeant with 25 years of law enforcement experience who leads the Advanced Officer Training Program echoed the same sentiments as the Lieutenant. The actions as described by the reporting female recruit were inappropriate. Including the “gifting” of challenge coins. He said he has awarded winners of drills in the past with challenge coins but always in front of the whole class. He indicated that “pulling a recruit aside and only giving the one recruit challenge coins is wrong. Especially if it’s the recruit the instructor had in the weight room and hid the weapons on her. Sergeant indicated this sounded more like the instructor was giving the gift so the recruit would not report what occurred.” Sergeant also “indicated he had had concerns about Chief Nuno in the past because Chief Nuno was always around the opposite sex; however, no one ever officially complained.”
Conclusion of investigations
The criminal investigation was completed in May 2020. The lead investigator of the criminal investigation contacted Nuno by phone after multiple failed attempts contacting his attorney. He refused to make a voluntary statement to the Detective, citing the advice of his attorney. The Detective then forwarded the completed report to the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office. She recommended that Nuno be charged with sexual battery as she believed he committed two criminal acts in violation of CA Penal Code 243.4(e). The District Attorney’s Office determined that there was insufficient evidence to file criminal charges against Nuno.
In June 2020, at the completion of the administrative investigation it was determined by evidence collected that Nuno violated multiple personnel policies and department procedures including:
SCSD Policy Manual: Conduct which may result in discipline 340.3(k)(m)(n); Performance 340.3.5(f)(o)(ab)(af); Relationships 340.3.9(b); Stanislaus County Personnel Manual: Harassment and Discrimination. The disciplinary review board agreed with the findings of the report and recommended the termination of Nuno.
Stanislaus County Sheriff Jeff Dirkse, City of Patterson Mayor Dennis McCord, all current Patterson City Council members, and City Manager Ken Irwin were contacted for comment. At the time of this report only Sheriff Dirkse’s office has responded to the Irrigator’s request.
Nuno’s prior alleged misconduct
In 2010 Nuno, a Sergeant at the time, was intimately involved with a Patterson woman named Vanessa Carrillo. The two met when Carrillo, a criminal justice student at a local university, participated in the ride-along program offered by Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department. Carrillo pleaded guilty to a felony hit-and-run, and misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter charges after she caused the death of Patrick O’Connor on Sep 1, 2010.
It was alleged in a civil suit filed by O’Connor’s parents in 2012 that Nuno obstructed the investigation of O’Connor’s death because of his relationship with Carrillo.
Jim O’Connor, the father of the slain man, made statements which were reported by the Turlock Journal at the time claiming that he believed Carrillo was given preferential treatment by the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office because of her relationship with Nuno. He also claimed that a private detective, hired by the family, had evidence that Carrillo called a sheriff’s deputy minutes after the collision.
The civil complaint was reported to further allege that Nuno had “provided advice and counsel to defendant Vanessa Carrillo in an attempt to evade, avoid and minimize the consequences of her criminal act.” It was also alleged that Nuno asked officers from the California Highway Patrol to not perform any field sobriety tests. No field sobriety tests were performed.
In 2012 Carrillo was sentenced to one year in jail, three year suspended prison term, and five years of probation.
Edited January 11, 2021 to include the statement from the City of Patterson and the report from Stanislaus County District Attorney.