When the 31-year-old survivor of a daylong sexual assault thinks back about what happened to her earlier this year, she says she can only recall the incident in flashes.
"I remember ... he was trying to position me on my hands and knees," the woman told NBC4. "It was very painful ... I remember my eyes shutting down, I felt heavy."
The woman, who does not want to reveal her name publicly, said she was given alcohol and drugs, passed out, then briefly regained consciousness several times during an attack that stretched over two days on a weekend in February. She said she was stripped and raped, and said she was held down and ordered to keep quiet when police knocked on the apartment door.
Local news from across Southern California
"I had never been sexually active," the woman said. "My innocence in believing in people has been taken away."
In court documents the LAPD said there's little question about who was involved or where it happened, but a different mystery has developed for the survivor: why prosecutors decided the alleged attacker, a former South Gate Police Department officer, should not face criminal charges.
On Feb. 3, 2019 LAPD officers found the woman inside ex-officer Edgar Yovanny Gomez's fourth floor apartment on Ninth Street. She was treated at a hospital for drug intoxication and released. She reported the assault to the LAPD a day later.
Gomez was arrested within a week.
Through his attorney, Silva Megerditchian, Gomez said he did not assault the woman.
"My client, Mr. Gomez, vehemently denied and continues to deny all allegations against him," Megerditchian said. "The defense is thankful to the District Attorney for giving considerable analysis to the detailed factual and legal complexities in this matter. We are relieved that thoughtful consideration was given in light of that legal and ethical mandate."
Edgar Gomez "separated" from South Gate PD sometime in 2018, said Capt. Darren Arakawa, following Gomez's guilty plea and sentence in a misdemeanor child abuse case in San Luis Obispo County. Gomez and his brother, at the time also a police officer, were accused of mistreating several children at a military-style boot camp.
As part of the investigation into the 2019 downtown LA incident LAPD detectives served a search warrant at Gomez's apartment, and according to records filed in LA Superior Court, discovered what appeared to be illegal drugs and drug paraphernalia, handgun and rifle ammunition, drug packaging material, and a scale.
Criminalists swabbed what appeared to blood and semen stains and took cheek swabs from Gomez himself for DNA comparisons. The search warrant documents describe the case as a rape investigation.
Three months later the LA County District Attorney's Office told the woman that no criminal charges would be filed, citing insufficient evidence. "Victim and suspect are acquaintances," a prosecutor wrote in rejecting the case May 3.
The woman who reported the assault said it felt like the Deputy DA didn't respect or understand what she had been through, even after she related her account of the incident in an interview with the prosecutor.
"The first question was like, if I was ever interested in the perpetrator," she said. "Like romantically, if I was ever attracted to him. Why would he ask, because after everything I'd experienced, I didn't know how that was even relevant."
"In a way I thought that they were breaking me down as a victim, about how credible I was, instead of focusing on the crime itself," she said.
The woman said her sole intention in meeting Gomez that night was to get advice for an upcoming job interview. The two had become acquainted through work years ago, but the woman said they did not know each other well. "We had never really been friends or anything like that," she said.
According to prosecution data obtained by NBC4's I-Team her case is not unique in LA County. In 2018 police presented 815 forcible rape investigations to prosecutors. Charges were filed in 188. These were investigations in which a suspect had been identified and investigators believed there was enough evidence and testimony to prove it in court.
The District Attorneys of Orange and San Diego Counties said in the most serious felony sex crimes, such as forcible rape, charges are filed in about 30% of the cases presented by police.
The DA's Office would not discuss the reasons the Gomez case was rejected. "The declination speaks for itself and our office declines further comment," a spokesperson said in an email in September.
As to the larger question of why so few rape cases delivered by police make it to court, LA County DA Jackie Lacey said acquaintance cases are particularly difficult to prove, unless the accused admits what happened, makes incriminating statements, or the victim's account can be corroborated with independent evidence.
"We may believe the victim and believe it happened, but that's not where we stop because that's not enough to get a conviction," Lacey told NBC4 this week, and explained prosecutors have a legal and ethical responsibility to only file charges in cases that can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
"It's very frustrating," she said. "We take the commitment to justice very seriously, and realize that at times we may in fact be letting someone go, that we feel in our heart of hearts is guilty, but we don't have the evidence."
Lacey said decisions to decline prosecution in rape cases shouldn't be interpreted as her office not believing victims.
"I can't explain how frustrating this for a survivor," said Bettina Robinson, an intervention programs manager at Peace Over Violence, a nonprofit group that advocates for sexual assault victims.
"The hesitancy in filing this case is disappointing, and while I can't speak to 'why,' it speaks to why survivors lack faith in the justice system," Robinson said.
For the woman who hoped her case would one day be presented to a jury in court, she said the inaction of prosecutors has been upsetting.
"To me it just kind of contributes to the whole idea of rape culture, where ... I almost feel like the victim is judged," she said. "We're judged and broken-down to how credible we are, but then perpetrators are never held responsible for anything. Even if we report and do all the right things, and there's nothing done, how are we going to stop this problem?"