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Police Officer Is Accused of Raping Girl He Had Once Taken for a Rape Exam

A former New Orleans police officer with a history of behavioral complaints who was dispatched to help a 14-year-old rape victim get medical attention last year later raped her himself, the girl’s mother claimed in a lawsuit.

After he took the girl to a hospital for evaluation, the officer, Rodney Vicknair, groomed the girl for months before he eventually sexually assaulted and raped her, according to the lawsuit, which was filed last week in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.

In May, Mr. Vicknair, a 13-year veteran of the New Orleans Police Department, was dispatched to the girl’s home to drive her, accompanied by her mother, to Children’s Hospital New Orleans for a forensic medical examination.

In the waiting room, Mr. Vicknair showed the girl photos of another girl, posing in bikinis and lingerie, who he said was his 16-year-old daughter, the lawsuit says.

After the hospital visit, Mr. Vicknair remained a near-constant presence in the girl’s life. The lawsuit claims that from June through September, he called the girl almost every day, frequently visited her at home and asked that she meet him outside in his car, under the pretense of acting as her mentor.

During those four months he bragged about committing acts of violence, joked about how he could kill her loved ones and “repeatedly described sexual acts he would like to engage in” with the girl, according to the lawsuit.

Mr. Vicknair solicited sexual acts, which she declined, and asked her to send him nude photos, which he displayed as the lock screen of his phone, the lawsuit says. Twice he exposed his genitals to her over FaceTime, it says.

The lawsuit says that he groped her multiple times — including once when he entered her home at night and shined a flashlight in her face to wake her up. On two occasions he used his fingers to rape her while in his police vehicle, once when its doors were locked, the lawsuit says; both times he was armed.

After complaints were made to two agencies, the lawsuit says, Mr. Vicknair was arrested and charged with sexual battery, indecent behavior with a juvenile and malfeasance in office.

Because Mr. Vicknair used his fingers to penetrate the girl, he could not be charged with rape under Louisiana law. According to the lawsuit, the same behavior would be considered rape under federal law.

When he was arrested, the lawsuit said, he had the girl’s underwear in his possession.

Townsend Myers, a lawyer defending Mr. Vicknair against the criminal charges, declined to comment on Thursday. It was unclear if Mr. Vicknair had separate representation for the civil suit.

The New Orleans Police Department said in a statement on Thursday that Mr. Vicknair was arrested in September at his home in St. Tammany Parish “after an internal investigation resulted in a warrant being issued for his arrest.”

He was placed on emergency suspension and was formally “separated” from the Police Department in January, the statement said. The department said it had contacted the F.B.I. regarding “potential civil rights violations.”

“As I stated from the moment this was brought to my attention, this type of alleged behavior will not be condoned or tolerated,” Superintendent of Police Shaun D. Ferguson, who is also named in the suit, said in the statement. “These alleged actions are clear violations of the department’s policies and contrary to everything that we require and expect of our police officers.”

The lawsuit asserts that Mr. Vicknair was a “singularly bad choice” to send to assist a child victim of rape because he was not a member of the Police Department’s special victims or child abuse units — a requirement under New Orleans Police Department policy — and had a history of complaints involving allegations of unprofessional and illegal conduct, some of which included predatory behavior toward women.

In one case, he used police equipment to use a woman’s license plate number to obtain personal information and called her name in a grocery store parking lot. He received five days of suspension and a letter of reprimand in his file for the offense.

A year after the letter of reprimand was issued, the lawsuit says, Mr. Vicknair was promoted to a mentor position for new recruits.

Hope A. Phelps, a lawyer representing the girl and her mother, said the lawsuit was intended to hold Mr. Vicknair accountable, as well as the New Orleans police for “sending him to the hospital that night.”

“For our client and her young daughter, it’s going to take years of counseling,” Ms. Phelps said. “This was very damaging to them emotionally, and they’re still suffering from it.”

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