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Prosecutors consider charges against woman who went on anti-Asian racist tirades

Protesters gather at Charles H. Wilson Park in Torrance to condemn an anti-Asian rant against a parkgoer.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Prosecutors in Torrance are considering misdemeanor charges against a woman whose racist, anti-Asian tirades were captured on cellphone video at a park, authorities announced Wednesday.

Police say that Lena Hernandez, 56, of Long Beach berated two people in separate incidents at Charles H. Wilson Park in Torrance last week. Video clips of the encounters that were posted on Twitter quickly went viral and triggered outrage among the public and elected officials.

The incidents came to light June 10 when a woman later identified as Hernandez accosted a younger woman who was exercising on a set of stairs at the park, unleashing a string of profanities and telling her to “go back to whatever ... Asian country you belong in.”

Reader advisory: These videos contain extensive profanity.

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A second video from the same day shows what appears to be the same woman berating an Asian man who had parked near her car at Wilson Park.

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.

Investigators also linked Hernandez to a third incident that occurred in October at the Del Amo Fashion Center in which they say she verbally assaulted a custodian and struck another person who tried to intervene, Torrance Police Chief Eve Berg said at a news conference last week.

“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.”

On Wednesday, detectives and members of the police department’s specialized crisis intervention team found Hernandez in a park in San Pedro and spoke to her about the three incidents. All of the encounters are misdemeanor crimes but because none occurred in the presence of an officer, Hernandez was not arrested when police interviewed her, authorities said.

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Prosecutors had not made a filing decision against Hernandez as of early Thursday.

Law enforcement in Torrance has faced criticism from residents and outsiders alike for its perceived lack of movement in the case, something Berg has refuted.

“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 last week. “We wanted to make sure we had positive identification from all the victims with this suspect.”

Times staff writer Andrew Campa contributed to this report


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