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Officer involved in Westlake shooting had 2 previous use-of-force incidents

September 8, 2010 | 10:39 pm

LAPD Officer Frank Hernandez, the 13-year department veteran who shot and killed Manuel Jamines, a death that has sparked three days of violent protests in the Westlake district, has been involved in two previous shootings while on duty, according to LAPD officials and records.

On Sunday, authorities said, Jamines was threatening passers-by with a knife, and when confronted by three officers, ignored their orders to drop the weapon. Hernandez fired two rounds when Jamines came at him with the knife raised over his head, officials have said.

Citing privacy laws, Police Chief Charlie Beck declined to discuss the past shootings or any details of Hernandez’s personnel file. He voiced support for Hernandez, however, and indicated that the 39-year-old officer’s performance should not come under suspicion because of the multiple shootings.

“If we had any concerns about his ability to use deadly force, he wouldn’t be out in the field,” Beck said in an interview Wednesday. “Each of these [shootings] need to be looked at in their individual contexts.”

In the previous shootings, Hernandez was found by LAPD officials and the agency’s oversight board to have acted within the department’s policies on the use of deadly force, according to LAPD sources who spoke on the condition that their names not be used because of privacy laws.

Hernandez first used his handgun in November 1999, his third year on the force. While assigned to the department’s Southwest Division, he and his partner responded to a robbery call and tracked the female suspect into the backyard of a home, according to an account released at the time by the department.

The pair opened fire when the woman allegedly pointed a handgun at them, according to the account. She fell to the ground, but allegedly reached for her weapon and ignored Hernandez’s orders to stop, causing him to shoot her again. A loaded semiautomatic handgun was recovered at the scene, according to the department’s account. At the time, the woman was listed in stable condition.

Almost a decade later, in December 2008, Hernandez and a different partner were helping to search for assault suspects in the LAPD’s Rampart Division. They approached an 18-year-old man they suspected of being involved in the assault, according to a department account of the incident released at the time. The man tried to flee, then pointed a gun at the officers, the account said. Hernandez shot the man once, wounding him.

Hernandez remains ineligible for patrol assignments for the time being, police officials said. An officer involved in a shooting is kept off the streets until the chief has received a formal briefing on the incident and the officer is cleared by a department psychologist to return to full duty.

-- Joel Rubin