Already having been involved in three on-duty shootings in his 20-year career, Los Angeles police officer Frank Hernandez wasted no time in escalating a verbal dispute with a homeless man last month, punching him repeatedly after the man taunted him
The beating was captured by a witness on video which quickly went viral last week.
On Tuesday, LAPD released body camera videos of the incident which add more context to the story, showing Hernandez and his partner responding to a call of a man who had been camping out in a private vacant lot next to a church.
The man, Richard Castillo, quickly followed orders to leave the property but continued mouthing off to the cop as he made his way down the sidewalk, referring to him as “my boy” and refusing to continue walking down the sidewalk when ordered to do so.
“My family lives here, my boy,” Castillo said.
“Go ahead, turn around, man, Hernandez responded, walking up to him.
Castillo turned around but his hands grabbed the railing in front of him, making it impossible for Hernandez to handcuff him.
“I’ll turn around but don’t push up on me, motherfucker,” Castillo responded.
Castillo then turned around and placed his hands behind his back and Hernandez grabs on to his wrists to make the arrest but then he accuses Castillo of fighting.
Like many cops, Hernandez’s definition of the word “fighting” usually just means somebody who is verbally complaining about being physically manhandled under unlawful pretenses.
“Quit fighting, man,” Hernandez tells him as he is arresting him.
“Ain’t nobody fighting,” Castillo responds.
“Fuck you!” Hernandez responds as he begins pummeling him with his fists.
Hernandez repeatedly punched Castillo for more than 30 seconds.
“You need to calm him down,” a witness tells Hernandez’s female partner.
“I know,” she says as she then attempts to diffuse the situation. Prior to that, she was just watching.
Moments earlier when Castillo and Hernandez were verbally arguing on the sidewalk, the female cop says, “They talk big shit until they are in handcuffs.”
After the beating, Hernandez accuses Castillo of having “fucking attacked me” when a witness tells police the man is the “most friendly guy.”
But there is no evidence in any of the videos that Castillo attacked the cop.
Hernandez was just upset he did not leave the area even though he had already stepped off the private property and was standing on a public sidewalk.
But it is not clear where Hernandez expected Castillo to go considering Los Angeles County still has an active stay-at-home order and this man apparently had no home to go to, other than maybe the family he says live in the neighborhood.
Also, resorting to physical violence at a time when the coronavirus is still running rampant proves Hernandez is not the brightest of the bunch.
Los Angeles Police Chief Michael Moore described the video as “disturbing” in the video he released that contains footage from both body cameras, footage from the witness across the street as well as a recording of the call to police from the owner of the property, requesting that he be removed.
This is how the LAPD described the incident in its press release:
The Los Angeles Police Department is aware of a disturbing video capturing a portion of an interaction between an individual and two uniformed officers in the City’s Hollenbeck Area. We discovered this video the same day that the interaction occurred and took immediate action.
The incident occurred April 27, 2020 when two uniformed officers responded to a radio call of a trespassing suspect in the 2400 block of Houston Street. At that location the two officers made contact with a male trespass suspect and directed him to leave the private property. During the course of the investigation a physical altercation occurred between the suspect and one of the officers, resulting in the officer receiving minor injuries to his hand. The suspect had abrasions to his head and face but refused medical attention.
A uniformed supervisor responded to the scene and initiated a preliminary investigation consistent with the Department’s reportable use of force protocols. A community member who reportedly witnessed some portion of the altercation provided the supervisor with a copy of a cell phone video taken. Upon review of the content of the cell phone video and the involved officer’s body worn video, the supervisor notified his commanding officer and investigators of the Internal Affairs Group responded to conduct a personnel complaint investigation.
The trespass suspect was released from custody from Hollenbeck station pending further investigation.
A formal complaint investigation has been initiated by Internal Affairs Group due to the serious nature of the alleged misconduct. At the direction of the Chief of Police the investigation involving the force used by the officer will be investigated by the Department’s Force Investigation Division.
The LAPD closely scrutinizes all uses of force, as we hold every officer to our high standards. While we are withholding judgement on the actions of the involved officer at this time, the officer has been assigned home pending further investigation. Additionally, the Department has notified the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, Justice System Integrity Division who is monitoring this investigation as well as the Department’s Office of the Inspector General.
Before releasing the video, unnamed sources within the LAPD tried to manipulate the media into believing Castillo had a weapon, which fell during the struggle but the object that fell was Hernandez’s body camera.
According to NBC Los Angeles:
A small object that’s seen falling to the ground during a video-recorded violent arrest in Boyle Heights could be a key piece of evidence in the investigation into whether an LAPD officer used excessive force, and the man seen punched in the video sued the city of Los Angeles Monday alleging civil rights violations.
Multiple law enforcement sources with knowledge of the case told NBC4’s I-Team the object was booked into evidence, and it appeared to be a large screw with a rubber or plastic grip, similar to improvised weapons sometimes found in jails and prisons.
Castillo filed a lawsuit Monday against the LAPD which you can read here that suggests Hernandez purposely dropped his camera.
Some witnesses, observers, and/or residents even noticed that one of the DOE Officers appeared to have removed an item from his body, which may have been his body worn camera (BWC), and threw or dropped it on the ground, while he approached Plaintiff.
This DOE Officer then aggressively grabbed Plaintiff and shoved him against the metal gate which caused significant pain to Plaintiff’s previously injured shoulder.
Plaintiff was terrified and indicated to DOE Officers that he was not resisting their advances and that they should just place him in “handcuffs” instead of “manhandling” him.
At some point, during this encounter, a resident from across the street began video recording the incident which has since gone “viral” on social media and in the local news.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Hernandez has been involved in at least three shootings over the last 20 years, including one incident in 2008 where he shot an innocent man, then claimed the man pointed a gun at him.
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.”
Lying cops like Hernandez have long been protected by the system so we probably should not expect any serious disciplinary action against him stemming from this beatdown.
Watch the edited video above which slows a portion of the clip down to determine if Castillo was truly fighting or the entire video from the LAPD below, which includes comments from the chief and the 911 call.