April 13 (Reuters) - A California police officer was put on administrative leave after he "manipulated" the body of a man who had been shot dead by police, including tickling the man's feet and attempting to open his mouth, according to officials and local media.
The Bakersfield Police Department said in a statement on Monday that senior officer Aaron Stringer improperly touched the body of Ramiro Villegas inside a hospital room last November, a day after the man had been shot dead by police.
The statement did not elaborate on Stringer's actions but said he was placed on leave the next day.
The Bakersfield Californian newspaper reported on Friday that he pretended to tickle Villegas' feet and tried to pry open his mouth.
The newspaper, citing reports it obtained from the department, said he told another officer at the hospital that he "loves playing with dead bodies," before laughing.
The Californian said Stringer was not permitted by the county coroner's office to touch the body. It quoted the department's reports as saying he declined to comment on the allegations and had hired an attorney.
Police said officers shot Villegas dead the night of Nov. 13 at the end of a brief high-speed pursuit, when he got out of his car and "aggressively" approached officers before he "reached towards his front waistband."
No weapon was found at the scene.
In February, the Kern County District Attorney's Office declined to bring criminal charges in the case, the statement said.
The Californian reported that Villegas' family has filed a claim against the city over the shooting. (Reporting by Curtis Skinner in San Francisco; Editing by Edmund Klamann)
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