L.A.P.D. Rules Justification in Shooting Report

by journojames on February 11, 2012

Originally published Mar. 15, 2011

LOS ANGELES, CA – The Los Angeles Police Commission ruled Tuesday that an L.A.P.D. officer was justified in fatally shooting a knife-wielding Guatemalan day laborer last year in an incident that sparked outrage and protests in the Latino community.

L.A.P.D. Commission President John Mack, Photo courtesy of Reed Saxon

L.A. Police Commission President John W. Mack announced that his panel unanimously accepted an internal report by the L.A.P.D that said Officer Frank Hernandez used proper lethal force against Manuel Jamines, 37, who stepped towards him with a knife. Mack announced that an independent review by the inspector general also determined that Hernandez’s deadly action was in line with department policy.

“This has been a long, particularly difficult and sad incident for all those involved,” said Mack. “I’m confident, when I speak for my fellow commissioners, that our review of this case has been exhaustive, conclusive and has left no stone unturned.”

Luis Carrillo, a lawyer representing Jamines’s wife in a federal civil lawsuit against the city, was disappointed but not surprised by the announcement.

“The script had already been written,” said Carrillo. “They just followed it.”

Dale Galipo, an attorney working with Carrillo, also denounced the commission’s decision.

“In every police shooting case, the L.A.P.D. investigates themselves,” said Galipo. “How objective could that be when they’re doing the investigation? They’re going to get their story and they’re going to stick with it.”

Manuel Jamines, Photo courtesy of Fight Back News

The incident involving the deadly confrontation between Hernandez and Jamines occurred on September 5 in the Latino immigrant neighborhood of Pico Union.

According to police reports, Hernandez, a 13-year veteran assigned to a bicycle unit in the Rampart Division, and two other officers were initially responding to a disturbance call at Wilshire Boulevard and Alvarado Street. While en route, they were flagged down by a passer-by who reported an intoxicated man threatening people on the street with a knife in the Westlake District. The officers responded and around 1 pm encountered Jamines at the corner of 6thStreet and Union Avenue. Police said Hernandez ordered Jamines in Spanish and English to drop the weapon. When Jamines made a sudden move towards Hernandez, the officer shot and killed him.

Police said a knife, with DNA evidence, was recovered at the scene and that several eyewitnesses supported Hernandez’s accounts of the incident. Other witnesses, however, came forward and contradicted the officer, saying that they did not see Jamines with a knife and that he did not understand the commands because he only spoke K’iche’, a language spoken by indigenous Mayans.

This is not the first shooting incident for Hernandez. He was involved in two other cases, but they, too, were later deemed to be within L.A.P.D. policy. According to the L.A. Times, he shot an 18-year-old assault suspect who tried to flee in 2008, and in 1999, he shot a female robbery suspect. Both suffered non-life threatening wounds.

In this case, the killing of Jamines touched a nerve with the Westlake, Pico Union community, an enclave of Central American immigrants. Residents who were suspicious of the police or felt that some form of nonlethal force should have been used were outraged. After the shooting, many took their anger to the streets and called for justice. Immigrants and activists protested, sometimes violently, the shooting for three days.

Makeshift memorial, Photo courtesy of Colorlines

Six months later, the anger was still evident at Tuesday’s announcement by the five-person civilian commission. The executive director of the National Lawyers Guild James Lafferty, who has been an out-spoken critic of the police and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s handling of the case, didn’t pull any punches at the end of the meeting.

“The cover-up report you just issued, you ought to be ashamed of yourselves,” Lafferty loudly told the commission as they left the room. “You’re gutless.”

In response to the commission’s decision, Pico Union community residents and immigrants’ rights activists were planning a 5 pm protest Tuesday night near MacArthur Park.

 

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