Intoxicated and barefoot, off-duty Renton officer accused of assaulting woman

RENTON, Wash. — An off-duty 30-year-old Renton police officer was arrested in Des Moines Saturday morning, on investigation of second-degree assault with sexual motivation.

Des Moines police say Tanuj Soni was barefoot, wearing a t-shirt inside out, and heavily intoxicated at 5:51 a.m. when they responded to a 911 call for help from a woman who claimed Soni slapped and hurt her after asking her to take her clothes off and go to a motel with him.

According to a Des Moines police document, Soni told responding officers the woman was his "confidential informant," and she "just showed up" at a Des Moines park and they were "hanging out," when she "started freaking out and ran off."

After running four blocks, police say the victim chose a house at random and screamed for help. "I just heard pounding on my doors," said Vida Hernandez.

Vida Hernandez says it was 5:51 on Saturday morning when a woman suddenly appeared on her surveillance camera running to her door, yelling for help.

"I heard crying," said Hernandez. "I thought i was my daughter at first so I immediately opened the door and it was a woman crying and screaming on the phone to 911."

The woman told Vida she'd been assaulted, and she was trying to get away from a man who was chasing her.

That man is seen on Hernandez' surveillance cameras walking through her front yard in the rain, putting up his hands.

"He just kept saying 'we're just friends, we're friends,' over and over.

But Vida, who has experience helping women in domestic violence situations, says she told Soni to stay there until Des Moines police arrived, and she said Soni respected her request, while telling her he was a police officer.

Officer Soni has been praised by the Renton Mayor as an outstanding officer in the past, for giving aid to a hungry child.

On Saturday morning, court documents say Soni called the woman to a Des Moines park, where he told her to drink wine with him so he could "get the answers he needed for his case."

The woman later told Vida and police Soni told her to take her clothes off and asked if he could slap her. Court documents say the woman told Soni to stop hitting her, that he was hurting her, and she ran away from him.

Hernandez said the frightened woman was kept safe in her home.

"I'm glad I was there for her," she said. "My kids later on told me, 'I wonder what made her choose this house?' "I said 'I guess for the right reason. I was here and awake already so I was able to come to the door right away and help her."

On Tuesday, KIRO 7's Deborah Horne spoke with one of Soni's former neighbors.

"From what I've seen, looked like oh, you know, he's really into his job what I could see," said Ron Mecham.

He lived across the street from the house where the 30-year-old man lived with his parents.

Mecham heard Soni had joined the Renton police force.

"I was kind of happy to see that," said Mecham. "And plus he worked for Renton and my uncle worked Renton Police Department for 25 years as a police officer."

Renton police tell KIRO-7 Soni is on paid administrative leave while they investigate.

Soni is expected to face a King County judge on Wednesday.

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