Los Angeles Police Officer Frank Hernandez was today cleared of any wrongdoing for shooting and killing Manuel Jamines, a 37-year-old Guatemalan father of three, in September 2010, the Los Angeles Times reported. The Los Angeles Police Department's oversight body issued its ruling today, confirming an internal LAPD report that came to the same conclusion after Hernandez shot Jamines twice in the head.
The shooting sparked three nights of angry protests in the Central American immigrant neighborhood of Westlake near downtown L.A., where Jamines lived. At a jam-packed community meeting following the shooting, residents berated LAPD chief Charlie Beck, and said that Jamines' shooting was just one incident in a long line of unwelcome police harassment of people in the community.
Officer Hernandez was responding to a call about a drunken, knife-wielding man who had threatened a pregnant woman. Witnesses say that Jamines was unarmed when Hernandez approached him. Other witnesses say that he did have a knife, but did not understand the officer's Spanish or English commands to drop the weapon, because he spoke neither. He was fluent in K'iche', a language spoken by indigenous Mayans. Jamines' family said that he had a problem with alcohol but that he was not violent.
Jamines' family, which filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Los Angeles, said that police should have found another way to subdue him without killing him. Hernandez is facing a separate lawsuit filed by a man named Joseph Wolf who says Hernandez used excessive force when he shot him in the thigh in 2008.
Extra police have been dispatched to the neighborhood as the LAPD braces for angry community reaction and more protests tonight.