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A Boyle Heights group is calling for the firing of the LAPD Hollenbeck officer involved in a violent beating caught on video last week and who has been identified as the cop who shot and killed a Guatemalan day laborer in Westlake in 2010.
On Wednesday, the Los Angeles Times said two unidentified law enforcement sources identified the Hollenbeck officer seen in the video as Frank Hernández, a 23-year department veteran who has been involved in at least three prior shootings.
“We demand Chief of LAPD Michael Moore fire officer Frank Hernández,” reads a petition for signatures circulated Wednesday by Centro CSO: Community Service Organization. “His track record alone proves he is a menace to society and in particular a menace to Boyle Heights.”
In September 2010, Hernández shot and killed Guatemalan day laborer Manuel Jamines in a case that sparked a series of protests in the Westlake neighborhood West of downtown LA. Jamines was reportedly drunk and threatening two women with a knife; Hernández and other officers ordered the man to drop the weapon in English and Spanish, but officers alleged he lunged in their direction and Hernández shot him twice.
The Westlake incident sparked several days of protests and unrest in the largely immigrant community. Immigrants’ groups and Jamínez’s relatives said the shooting was unjustified and that the shooting victim could not understand the police officers’ demands, because he only spoke an indigenous Guatemalan language.
In news reports at the time, area residents called Hernandez a “bully” who often confronted and harassed street vendors. But Hernández and other officers were hailed as “heroes” by then mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and former Police Chief Charlie Beck and the Police Commission found the shooting to be within policy.
In 2008, Hernández shot and wounded an 18-year-old man he mistook as a suspect in the Angelino Heights neighborhood. Police originally said that Joseph Wolf wielded a gun and pointed it at officers pursuing him; police later found two plastic toy pistols in the man’s home but neither tested positive for his DNA.
At the time, the Police Commission found the shooting to be “in policy” but said Hernández tactics warranted “administrative disapproval.” In March of 2010, Wolf filed a civil lawsuit against Hernández, accusing him of improperly using deadly force.
A third known incident in which Hernández was involved occured in 1999 in South LA, when he shot a suspect who pointed a gun at him. The woman survived the shooting and police said they found a loaded gun at the scene.
In the video that circulated on social media this week, one of two officers who responded to a trespassing call is seen punching an unidentified and unarmed suspect about 12 times. The male officer also yells obscenities at the suspect and, after apprehending the suspect with the help of two other officers who later arrive at the scene, yells at witnesses to leave the scene.
The male officer punching the suspect fits the profile of Hernández, who according to LAPD records joined the department in April, 1997 and is reportedly 49-years-old.
Besides citing the two unnamed sources, the Times said that the person who shot the video that recorded the beating was told by investigators at the scene referred to the officer by the last name Hernández. The person who shot the video has asked Boyle Heights Beat not to reveal his or her identity.
Carlos Montes, an organizer with Centro CSO –the group circulating the online petition– told the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday that finding out that the man seen in the video is Hernández added to his aggravation over the violent incident.
Montes, who has helped organize protests over a number of officer-involved shootings in Boyle Heights and East Los Angeles, told the Times he joined in the Westlake protests over the Jaminez shooting 10 years ago.
“We’re always frustrated that whenever there is a problem officer, all they do is they transfer them,” Montes told The Times. “And now they transferred him to Boyle Heights.”
On Wednesday, an LAPD spokesperson told Boyle Heights Beat the department could not identify the officer or give out any information in addition to a statement released Tuesday. LAPD Captain Rick Stabile, the commanding officer at Hollenbeck station who was called to the beating incident on April 27, said Wednesday that he could neither confirm nor deny the identity of the officer, who was immediately put on home duty.
Stabile pointed to the swift action taken by the department, which confirmed on Tuesday it had reviewed the case and was looking at the officer’s own bodycam video and said that the unnamed officer was being investigated by the department’s Force Investigation Division.
But some activists have complained that the LAPD only released a statement after the video began to circulate on Tuesday, a week after the April 27 incident.
In a statement released Tuesday, LAPD chief Michel Moore did not specifically address the Boyle Heights incident but said “I intend to… hold individuals accountable for behavior that is inconsistent with the high standards [of the LAPD].”
Police said the man taken into custody in the video refused medical treatment and was released pending the investigation, but it was unclear if he is being charged. LA TACO reported that a Boyle Heights resident recognized the suspect as man who lives under a tent near the Houston Street church where he was beat. A man cited by the outlet referred to the man, who does not respond to the punches in the video, as a “humble” and “peaceful” man.
In an editorial published Thursday, the Los Angeles Times editorial board called for the LAPD to “come clean… and swiftly” in disclosing details and outcome of the investigation.