A Renton Police officer was formally charged with assault Wednesday after prosecutors said he asked a confidential informant to take off her clothes, then slapped and groped her in a Des Moines park.
Tanuj Soni, 30, was charged with fourth-degree assault with sexual motivation and abuse of office in King County Superior Court, according to charging documents. Soni, who was arrested Saturday, has been a Renton police officer for eight years and was a previously a cadet with the department.
“If the allegation against Officer Soni is true, it is deeply unsettling,” Renton Deputy Chief Jon Schuldt said in a letter posted Wednesday on the Renton Police Department’s social media accounts. “However, we have confidence and trust in our judicial system to conduct a thorough investigation resulting in the appropriate outcome.”
Soni’s bail was set at $50,000, and he was released from jail Tuesday on personal recognizance, according to the King County Prosecutor’s Office and jail records. He has been placed on administrative leave from Renton Police, the department said.
Prosecutors believe Soni told the woman they needed to discuss something important and confidential related to a case she had been working on with him. He asked her to meet him in a park in the 25000 block of 16th Avenue South early Saturday, according to charges.
“He used his position as a detective to lure [the woman] to a park in the middle of the night under the guise of discussing a case with her,” Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Charles Sergis wrote in charges.
Charging documents Wednesday provided additional details about the case:
The woman had a friend take her to the park, where she said Soni was standing on the sidewalk with a bottle of wine and two cups. After the woman’s friend left, the woman said Soni told her to drink so he could get answers he needed for the case.
After they drank wine for a few hours, Soni asked her to take off her clothes, to get on her knees and to say sexual statements, according to charges. He slapped her about 10 times on the face and twice on the buttocks, and he grabbed her genitals, according to charges.
The woman was too afraid to physically resist, according to charges. She said she was crying and told Soni to stop because he was hurting her. When she was able to put her clothes back on, she said Soni suggested they get a motel room.
The woman tried to discreetly reach her friend while pretending to find a motel. She then ran from Soni while texting her friend, “Come SOS,” “He hit me,” and “Don’t text me.” She called 911 around 6 a.m., saying a detective was chasing her. A dispatcher noted it was difficult to understand her, because she was crying and screaming, according to charges.
When the woman reached a nearby home, she banged on the door and screamed until the resident answered. The resident called police, telling dispatchers that a man identifying himself as a detective was standing behind the woman in the driveway, according to charges. The resident told dispatchers that Soni kept saying he was the woman’s friend and that they met three weeks ago.
When Des Moines Police officers arrived, they noted that Soni appeared heavily intoxicated and was wearing shorts, an inside-out T-shirt and no shoes. Officers said Soni told them the woman was his confidential informant and they were hanging out when she started “freaking out” and ran, according to charges. Soni told police he ran after her to calm her down.
The woman showed police her iPhone and iPad, which police said had some messages from Soni that were not on her phone. She told police Soni erased messages from him on her phone to hide evidence, according to charges.
Soni has been instructed by the court to have no contact with the woman and to surrender his firearms.
Soni will next appear in court Aug. 28.