LAPD officer in violent beating video has been involved in three prior shootings
The Los Angeles police officer caught on video repeatedly punching a man during an arrest last week has been involved in three on-duty shootings during his career, including one that sparked violent protests in Westlake 10 years ago, two law enforcement sources have told The Times.
Frank Hernandez, who has been with the LAPD for more than 20 years, was identified as the man under investigation for his actions during an April 27 arrest of a homeless man in Boyle Heights, according to the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the case with the media.
The person who filmed the violent clash, who also requested anonymity for fear of retribution, told The Times that investigators at the scene that day told him the officer’s last name was “Hernandez.”
An LAPD spokesman said the department was barred from identifying the officer by state law. The department normally identifies officers involved in deadly force incidents, but the videotaped clash did not meet that standard.
In footage that was widely viewed online this week, the officer can be seen repeatedly punching a man in the head and body in the 2400 block of Houston Street. The officer and his partner had been responding to a trespassing call, authorities have said.
Warning: Video contains profanity and violence.
In the video, the man does not appear to be armed and is standing with his hands behind his back when the officer strikes him in the head and proceeds to continue punching him, even as the man stumbles away and attempts to shield himself. Police are still trying to determine whether the man had a weapon, a department spokesman said.
The man sustained minor injuries and refused medical attention. He was released and not booked on suspicion of any crime, the LAPD said. The person who shot the video said the man was homeless, known around the neighborhood and had not caused trouble in the past.
The officer has been assigned to home pending investigations by the Internal Affairs and Force Investigation divisions, according to a department spokesman.
David Winslow, who has confirmed he is representing the officer seen in the video but would not confirm or deny his identity, said police were responding to reports of the suspect sleeping in a tent on private property. Body-worn camera footage shows that the suspect struck the officer in the chest prior to the altercation seen in the video that surfaced online, Winslow said.
He also disputed the idea that the suspect was surrendering, and said the man threatened the officer and struggled with him just before the first punch was thrown.
“The use of force is justified because the officer believed he was under attack from the suspect … even though you might think the suspect wasn’t fighting back at that time, he wasn’t complying either,” Winslow said Monday.
Hernandez has been involved in at least three on-duty shootings during his career, including one where the city’s civilian Police Commission found fault with his actions.
In September 2010, Hernandez shot and killed Manuel Jaminez, a Guatemalan day laborer who was allegedly drunkenly wielding a knife and threatening two women in Westlake. Hernandez and other officers ordered Jaminez to drop the weapon in English and Spanish, but he allegedly lunged in their direction.
Jaminez died after he was shot twice. Activists and relatives later argued the shooting was unjustified and claimed Jaminez, who spoke the indigenous Guatemalan language K’iche’, could not understand the officers’ commands.
The shooting sparked several days of protest in the Westlake neighborhood, and a number of Guatemalan politicians came to Jaminez’s defense. Former Police Chief Charlie Beck and the Police Commission unanimously found the shooting to be within policy, however.
Two years earlier, Hernandez was involved in another controversial incident where he was chasing one suspect but ultimately ended up shooting an 18-year-old who was not involved in the initial incident.
Authorities said Hernandez and a partner were pursuing someone who threatened police with a firearm when they encountered Joseph Wolf on a street corner. Wolf, who was wearing a black hooded sweatshirt, had walked out of his home because a police helicopter had appeared over the neighborhood, according to news releases and Police Commission reports documenting the shooting investigation.
Hernandez yelled at the men to stop. Wolf ignored him and went inside, where Hernandez shot him in the leg, those records show. An LAPD account released at the time alleged Wolf pointed a gun at the officers. The teenager was arrested and charged with assault with a deadly weapon.
Two plastic toy pistols were found in a dresser in Wolf’s bedroom, but neither tested positive for his DNA. The charges against Wolf were dropped in July 2009. A prosecutor in the case told a judge that witness statements and scientific evidence led to the charges being dismissed, according to court transcripts.
In a civil lawsuit, Wolf later alleged that the LAPD fabricated the charges to cover up Hernandez’s use of force. The Police Commission found the shooting to be “in policy,” but said Hernandez’s tactics warranted “administrative disapproval.”
A finding of administrative disapproval “reflects that the tactics used by the involved officer substantially and unjustifiably deviated from department training.”
In 1999, Hernandez also shot a robbery suspect who pointed a gun at him in South L.A. The woman survived, and a loaded firearm was recovered at the scene, police said.
When asked about the prior shootings, Winslow said he wouldn’t comment on his client’s identity but noted “anything that happened prior to this has nothing to do with the facts that were before [the officer] on that day.”
Carlos Montes, a member and organizer with Centro CSO: Community Service Organization in Boyle Heights who was involved in protests of Jaminez’s death years ago, said news that the officer involved in last week’s beating was Hernandez only intensified his feelings about the video.
“We’re always frustrated that whenever there is a problem officer, all they do is they transfer them,” Montes said. “And now they transferred him to Boyle Heights.”
The stories shaping California
Get up to speed with our Essential California newsletter, sent six days a week.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.