Crime - Sacto 911

Ex-Los Rios, San Mateo police officer booked on sex assault charges

A former Sacramento-area police officer who has been under investigation for a series of alleged sexual assaults while on duty in Sacramento and San Mateo counties in recent years was arrested Thursday.

Noah W. Winchester, who has served as an officer with the Sacramento Police Department, the Los Rios Community College District police and, most recently, the San Mateo Police Department, was arrested on a series of felony sexual assault-related charges by the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office.

He was arrested on 22 counts of kidnapping, rape and related charges. The allegations against Winchester, 31, of Stockton involve his time as an officer at Los Rios and with the San Mateo department, officials said.

Winchester was placed on leave in October from the San Mateo Police Department and subsequently resigned from that post.

Los Rios spokesman Mitchel Benson said Winchester worked as an officer for Los Rios from Jan. 1, 2009, through Jan. 16, 2015, and left for the San Mateo job because it offered a significant increase in pay. He was assigned to American River College the last two years with Los Rios, but was moved around throughout the district before that, Benson said.

“We are just learning this afternoon of these shocking charges regarding former Los Rios Police Officer Noah Winchester, and we are appalled to think they could be true,” Benson said in a written statement. “We will continue to cooperate with all law enforcement agencies pursuing this case.”

Benson said the Los Rios district will launch an independent investigation into the allegations. “If the allegations are proven to be true, the investigation will outline what steps if any Los Rios could take to help the district avoid a similar tragedy in the future,” he said.

Winchester first became involved with law enforcement as an officer with the Sacramento Police Department, although his career there was short-lived.

Department spokesman Sgt. Bryce Heinlein said Winchester was employed from December 2006 through October 2007, when “he was released from employment.”

Heinlein said he could not elaborate on why Winchester left, but said it occurred before he had completed his probation.

Winchester then moved on to the Los Rios department. During Winchester’s time at Los Rios, Sacramento police began a sexual assault investigation of him but no charges were filed.

Heinlein said that probe began in 2013 and Los Rios officials were notified of it at the time.

A second probe of Winchester involving a sexual assault allegation also was conducted by the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department. Sgt. Tony Turnbull said in an email that the probe involved a 2013 incident that was not reported to authorities until 2015, after Winchester had left Los Rios.

Winchester joined the San Mateo department in early 2015 as a “lateral police officer.”

San Mateo Police Department officials first became aware of criminal allegations against Winchester on Oct. 20. The allegations related to an incident that occurred the previous night.

“Based on the severity of the allegations we immediately placed Winchester on indefinite leave before his next work shift, and turned the criminal portion of the investigation over to the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office,” San Mateo police said in a news release.

San Mateo police opened an administrative investigation into Winchester’s conduct as it related to department policy and procedures.

Additional alleged acts were uncovered during the district attorney’s investigation in both San Mateo and Sacramento counties, some dating back to 2013.

Bill Lindelof: 916-321-1079, @Lindelofnews