As protests against police brutality continue across Southern California, a Los Angeles police officer who was caught on cell-phone video repeatedly striking a trespassing suspect in late April in Boyle Heights, is scheduled to be arraigned on Thursday on felony charges.
Frank Hernandez, 49, is scheduled to be arraigned today on charges of assault under color of authority in a downtown L.A. courtroom.
“In this case, we believe the force was neither legally necessary or reasonable,'' the county's top prosecutor said in a written statement.
Cell phone video captured by a witness shows Hernandez allegedly punching an unarmed man more than a dozen times in the head, neck and body while he was being detained on April 27, on trespassing charges.
According to a release from the Los Angeles Police Department, Hernandez and another officer from the Hollenbeck Division responded to a call of a man trespassing on private property in the 2400 block of Houston Street.
At one point, a fight broke out between the suspect and one officer. Authorities say the police officer sustained a minor injury to his hand, while the suspect had cuts to his head and face. However, the suspect refused medical attention.
A witness was recording the confrontation with his cell phone and gave a copy of the video to a police supervisor on scene, the statement added.
“Upon review of the content of the cellphone 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,'' police said.
The suspect was released from custody, pending further investigation, the department said.
An internal investigation was launched while Hernandez was assigned to home duty pending the results of the investigation.
“The department has taken this matter very seriously from day one, and he will be held accountable for his actions," LAPD Chief Michel Moore said Thursday.
Two internal investigations of the incident are "nearing completion," the LAPD said.
Hernandez faces up to three years in county jail if convicted of the charge, which was filed Monday, according to the District Attorney's Office.
The Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union representing LAPD officers, issued a statement saying, “While we have a fiduciary responsibility to provide our members with assistance through the internal affairs administrative process, what we saw on that video was unacceptable and is not what we are trained to do.''
Hernandez has been involved in three on-duty shootings, according to a report from the Los Angeles Times. In one incident, Hernandez allegedly shot and killed a Guatamalan day laborer after the man allegedly used a knife to threaten two women in the Westlake area in September 2010.
“Over the past several days there have been incidents reported in the news that are clearly not consistent with the core values of the Los Angeles Police Department," Moore tweeted on May 5th, in an apparent reference to the cell phone video, which had gone viral after the incident. "My pledge to you, is that when these instances occur and we fall short of your expectations there will be a thorough investigation. I intend to take a clear-eyed view and hold individuals accountable for behavior that is inconsistent with the high standards of this organization.''