LOS ANGELES, Calif. (KTLA) — A Los Angeles police officer who was caught on video repeatedly striking an unarmed trespassing suspect has been charged with assault, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced Tuesday.
Frank Hernandez, 49, faces one felony count of assault under color of authority.
“This is a disturbing case of the illegal use of force at the hands of a police officer,” District Attorney Jackie Lacey said in a news release. “In this case, we believe the force was neither legally necessary nor reasonable.”
The charge comes as protesters around the world decry police brutality in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer. In Los Angeles, Lacey has been a particular target of protesters who say she has not been tough enough on police.
The incident unfolded on April 27, when Hernandez and his partner responded to a call about a trespasser in a vacant lot, LAPD officials said at the time.
Video recorded by a bystander from across the street shows the officers detaining a man on a sidewalk by a church.
There is a verbal exchange between the 28-year-old man and the officer, later determined to be Hernandez, before the officer strikes the man several times in the head while screaming expletives.
Video shows the man crouched down as he asks the officer, “What is wrong with you?”
Hernandez’s female partner stands behind him during the attack then places her hand on her fellow officer’s arm before he could throw another punch.
The attack lasted about 20 seconds.
The video led to an LAPD investigation, and police later released bodycam video of the confrontation. The man used a homophobic slur and other curse words directed at the officer, the bodycam video showed.
The man, who is identified in the criminal complaint as “Richard C,” was eventually released.
In the news release announcing the charges, officials said Hernandez “illegally” punched the unarmed man “more than a dozen times in the head, neck and body.”
Hernandez has been with the department for more than 20 years and was involved in three on-duty shootings, the Los Angeles Times reported.
In a statement Tuesday, LAPD officials said they are cooperating with the DA and called the video “disturbing.”
“The Department has taken this matter very seriously from day-one and he will be held accountable for his actions,” Chief Michel Moore said in a statement.
Hernandez is scheduled to be arraigned on Thursday. He faces three years in jail.