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LAPD officer who fatally shot day laborer was accused of using improper deadly force in 2008 shooting

September 10, 2010 |  2:32 pm

The Los Angeles police officer who fatally shot a day laborer in Westlake was previously accused in a civil lawsuit of improperly using deadly force when he shot and wounded a 19-year-old in the leg in 2008, The Times has learned.

Officer Frank Hernandez shot Joseph Wolf on the morning of Dec. 12, 2008, according to a civil rights and negligence lawsuit filed in March of this year by Wolf’s attorneys.

The lawsuit said Wolf was shot outside his home after he heard the sound of a helicopter circling above his home and went outside to see what was going on.

An LAPD account released at the time stated that Hernandez and a partner were helping to search for assault suspects in the LAPD's Rampart Division when they approached a man they suspected of being involved in the assault.

The man tried to flee, then pointed a gun at the officers, prompting Hernandez to shoot the man once and wound him, according to the account. Wolf was not the suspect the officers were looking for, according to the LAPD statement.


Wolf, according to the civil lawsuit, was arrested and charged with assault with a deadly weapon and exhibiting a firearm in the presence of an officer. The lawsuit called the charges “baseless” and alleged they were falsely brought to “cover up the unlawful use of deadly force.”

It did not say whether he was armed with a gun.

The Los Angeles district attorney’s office dismissed the charges in July 2009, according to the lawsuit. Wolf had no criminal history, attorneys wrote.

“In order to cover up the unreasonable use of force that is a bad shooting, allegations were fabricated that Plaintiff was carrying a weapon and pointed it at Officer Hernandez,” Wolf’s attorneys wrote in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit, which was initially filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, has since been moved to federal court, where it is pending.

A Los Angeles city attorney's spokesman declined to comment because the case is pending.

Hernandez, a 13-year department veteran, shot and killed Manuel Jamines, 37, who police said was wielding a knife and threatening people Sunday in the crowded Westlake shopping district.

Hernandez fired two shots when Jamines came at him with the knife raised over his head, officials have said.

Jamines' death sparked protests and violent skirmishes between demonstrators and police for three nights in the area near 6th Street and Union Avenue. Dozens of protesters were  arrested.

-- Victoria Kim

Photo: A burned sign on 6th Street provides a silent reminder of protests after the fatal police shooting of a day laborer in Westlake.

Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times