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Torrance police identify woman who went on anti-Asian racist tirades

People dressed in black listen at the conclusion of the "We Sweat With You" rally and workout at Wilson Park in Torrance
Sherry, 38, of Torrance, center, acknowledges supporters at the conclusion of a rally and workout called “We Sweat With You” at Charles H. Wilson Park in Torrance, where a woman made racist, anti-Asian comments to her as she was exercising in the park.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Torrance police identified the woman at the center of a social media storm over racist, anti-Asian tirades caught on video as Long Beach resident Lena Hernandez, 56.

On Wednesday, Hernandez berated two people in separate incidents at Charles H. Wilson Park in Torrance, police said, with Twitter video clips going viral Wednesday and Thursday.

Torrance Mayor Patrick Furey described the scenes on social media as “nauseating to absolutely anybody in our community,” in a city that he said is between 30% to 40% Asian or Pacific Islander and where 80 languages are spoken.

The first incident to reach social media involved the woman now identified as Hernandez harassing a younger woman exercising at a set of stairs at Wilson Park. In the second racist outburst, she berated an Asian man in his car with two of his children present.

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Torrance police also indicated that they are investigating Hernandez in connection with another incident in October at the Del Amo Fashion Center.

Torrance Police Chief Eve Berg said her department became aware of the racist incidents through social media Wednesday and worked first to identify the victims.

The first, who identified herself to The Times as Sherry, was working out when she nearly bumped into the woman, who launched into a tirade.

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The woman threatened violence before telling Sherry to “get … out of this world, get … out of this state and go back to whatever … Asian country you belong.”

“Once we were able to identify the victim, a crime report was taken,” Berg said. “While our detectives were working on this incident we became aware of another person who was victimized in the same matter and, in fact, that same day while he was out with his family at Wilson Park.

“A crime report was taken in that incident shortly after it occurred.”

Later in the day, the same woman was recorded on video verbally assaulting an Asian man who had parked near her at Wilson Park. Sgt. Ron Salary of the Torrance Police Department said the amount of time between the incidents was unknown.

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In the video, the woman says, “You know what, you need to go home,” while glancing at the man’s vehicle, where his two children are sitting.

The unidentified man responds, “I am home,” before the woman tells him to stop playing games.

The woman is then heard using a profanity and threatening to kill the man, who turns his camera to record the woman’s license plate before she refers to him as a “Chinaman,” speaking to him in gibberish and complaining that his vehicle was parked too close to her Honda.

The man continues to repeat to the woman calmly, “Get educated” and “Respect.”

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Berg added that she believes Hernandez was part of an earlier altercation in October in which a custodian at the Del Amo Fashion Center was verbally assaulted and that Hernandez was also responsible for “physically assaulting another individual who was acting as a good Samaritan when they attempted to intervene.”

“We believe that that suspect is responsible for all three of these incidents,” Berg said. “That victim too has been contacted by detectives in regard to this matter.”

Berg said detectives have been searching for the Long Beach resident but have not found her. Berg is asking the community to call Torrance police at (310) 328-3456 with information on Hernandez’s location or any other people who may have been attacked.

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As for the charges, Berg said, she’s waiting to hear from City Hall.

“So that’s what we’re leaving up to our city attorney’s office,” she said. “The case is being presented to our city attorney’s office actually as we speak.”

Over the last two days, the Police Department has faced criticism from residents and outsiders alike for its perceived lack of movement in this case, something Berg pushed back at.

“The reason why we haven’t held a press conference or put out any information on this matter is because we didn’t want to compromise the integrity of this investigation,” she said. “We wanted to make sure we had positive identification from all the victims with this suspect.”

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Berg also said that it was unclear whether Hernandez has a mental illness but that “we are looking into that aspect.”

Berg could not confirm whether Hernandez was the same individual who had a restraining order filed against her in 2018 by her mother.


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