A Los Angeles police officer caught on video repeatedly beating a homeless man in Boyle Heights two years ago pleaded no attack on Thursday, authorities said.
Frank Hernandez, 51, will not serve time in prison for the crime. He was sentenced to two years probation, 80 hours of community service and one year of anger management class under the terms of an appeal agreement announced during a hearing in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom.
Officers responding to a trespassing on Houston Street in April 2020 encountered Richard Castillo. According to an LAPD statement at the time, they directed the homeless man, who was a well-known figure in the neighborhood, to leave a vacant lot near a church.
Video of the incident, captured by a bystander, shows Hernandez and his partner confronting Castillo against the property’s chain link fence. As one of the officers tells the man to turn around, Hernandez suddenly tells Castillo to “stop fighting.”
Seconds later, Hernandez delivered a series of punches to the back of Castillo’s head while shouting profanities. When Castillo tried to take a few steps away from the officer, Hernandez followed and continued the attack. Hernandez’s partner stands by, occasionally extending her hand but not otherwise intervening.
The footage immediately sparked outrage in Boyle Heights and among other Latino communities in the city. Some local residents recognized Hernandez for his role in several shootings.
In one such case, Hernandez killed a Guatemalan man in 2010, sparking days of protests and rebukes from Guatemalan politicians who said the man killed spoke only the indigenous language K’iche’ and could not understand Hernandez’s commands. In 2008, when Hernandez was stalking a suspect, the officer shot and wounded an bystander 18-year-old.
Hernandez initially pleaded not guilty to the attack on Castillo, and the officer told a Times reporter he “feared imminent danger and acted appropriately.”
Attempts to contact his attorney Thursday were not immediately successful. He “separated” from the LAPD in May 2021, according to a spokesman for the department.
At a preliminary hearing in December 2020, Hernandez’s partner testified against him, according to a transcript of the hearing. Det. Kim Hanna said she had no idea why her partner was hitting Castillo and that the victim did nothing to provoke him, the transcript reads.
Hanna said she tried to stop Hernandez but couldn’t because of his “wild swings.” Castillo was not seriously injured during the clash and refused medical attention.
“Although the victim sustained no serious injuries, it is not due to a lack of effort on the part of the defendant,” the LA assistant district attorney said. atty Christopher Baker said during the preliminary hearing.
Castillo filed a federal lawsuit against the department in 2020, but was shot dead in El Sereno in September 2021, a week before he was scheduled to be deposed in the lawsuit, according to his attorney, Wesley Ouchi.
Castillo’s family said they received no information about an arrest or a motive for the murder. An LAPD spokesman said detectives were “following current leads” but gave no further details about the killing.
Castillo died from a gunshot wound in the leg, according to medical records provided to the Times by Ouchi, who described Hernandez’s plea as a “bitter-sweet victory” for the Castillo family.
“Any civilian in the same position as Officer Hernandez would have received a prison offer from the district attorney’s office,” Ouchi said in an email to The Times. “However, the historic criminal charges against Officer Hernandez show a progress in our society that would have been unheard of just a few years ago.”
Castillo’s uncle Raymundo Ferreira said the 30-year-old grew up in Boyle Heights and is well known to shopkeepers and neighbors as he often rides his bike around the area. Ferreira said his nephew hid the fact that he had been homeless from relatives, telling them he was staying with friends, when in fact he slept in a tent on the property where Hernandez confronted him.
After the attack, Castillo moved in with Ferreira and began working at his Boyle Heights outlet store, Ferreira said. But when LAPD officers repeatedly stopped by the store asking about Castillo in the months after the attack, he began missing work.
“He came here and helped me … but he always told me I didn’t want to cause you any problems,” Ferreira said. “So he stopped coming.”
An LAPD spokesman said the visits were part of the internal investigation into Hernandez’s conduct.
“The whole time he was on the street, nothing happened to him,” said Ferreira, and tears filled his eyes in front of his shop. “Now that I’ve gotten him to change his life, start a little bit, step by step, that’s what happened.”
https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-08-18/lapd-officer-pleads-no-contest-in-videotaped-beating-of-homeless-man LAPD officer pleads no contest in videotaped beating of homeless man