Preceded by Aztec Dancers, some 100 relatives, friends and supporters of two Latinos killed by Los Angeles Police Department officers in the past six months took their grievances over the lack of indictment of “killer cops” to the Granada Hills home of Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey, whom they accuse of protecting police officers.
“Does the city of LA give police officers a pass on police brutality?” questioned Mariana Hernandez, whose brother Daniel Hernandez was shot and killed by an LAPD police officer the afternoon of April 22.
Hernandez, 38, had been involved in a five-car crash near the intersection of San Pedro and 32nd Street in South Los Angeles. A witness called 9-1-1 and reported the man who caused the accident was cutting himself with a knife and acted suicidal.
Bodycam video released later by the LAPD shows responding officer Toni McBride telling Hernandez to drop the knife as he emerges from behind a damaged vehicle. Soon after McBride shoots Hernandez, who is still some distance away.
The shooting remains under investigation by the LAPD, which said in a press release soon after the incident that “A folding utility-type knife was located at scene and recovered as evidence.”
“He was clearly far away from the officer or any other bystanders. He did not pose any danger to the officer,” says Mariana into a megaphone in a video posted on Facebook while standing at the entrance to the Lacey’s driveway. Several police officers were posted in front of the District Attorney’s home.
“You cannot continue to shoot to kill, you need to de-escalate and respect their lives,” Mariana tells the officers.
Hernandez’ teenage daughter has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the LAPD, claiming the shooting was unjustified and the officer who killed her father had “reckless violent and homicidal propensities.”
Support for Victim Alex Flores
Also on hand for the protest was Amanda Flores, sister to Alex Flores, who was also killed in the area patrolled by officers from the Newton Division in South Los Angeles.
Similarly, Flores, 34, was carrying a knife when the body-camera footage shows him running towards officers who shot him dead on Nov.19, 2019. Seven months have passed since then, and Amanda said, “We still continue to wait for the police autopsy report and an explanation why Sgt. Steven Ruiz killed my brother.”
The LAPD said that a citizen flagged the officers and reported a man with a knife. “The sergeant searched the area for the armed man, located him, and requested a backup. Additional Newton Area officers responded and followed the suspect, later identified as Alex Flores Jr., to the area of 28th Street and Central Avenue. At some point, Flores ran towards one of the officers while armed with a knife, and an OIS (officer-involved shooting) occurred.”
Prosecutors have yet to make a decision on the case of the death of Alex Flores, which — like in the case of Hernandez — is still under investigation by the LAPD Force Investigation Division that examines all incidents involving the use of deadly force by an LAPD officer.
Lacey, the first African-American to head the county District Attorney’s office, was elected to the post in 2012 and is seeking re-election in November. She is opposed by George Gascon, a former LAPD Assistant Chief and San Francisco’s District Attorney. She received 48% of the votes in the March primary, short of the 50% needed to avoid a runoff.
Black Lives Matter and other activists have organized weekly protests against her in front of her downtown office and have also increasingly targeted her at her house in Granada Hills.
On March 2, a day before the primary election, Lacey’s husband pulled a gun on protesters who knocked on their door early in the morning. Lacey later said that he reacted that way after receiving threats and fearing for their lives.
Despite Lacey’s assertions of being fair and instituting reforms, protesters continue to attack her record, noting that in her eight years as the county’s top prosecutor more than 600 people have been killed by law enforcement officers and none have been prosecuted.
She’s even gone against the position of former LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, who in 2016 recommended Lacey file charges against one of his officers who killed an unarmed man in Venice in 2015.
“You, DA Lacey, are just as guilty as these cops if you allow it to happen,” Amanda Flores said during last Saturday’s protest. “Stop protecting killer cops and hold them accountable for these actions.
“This is why police continue to kill our loved ones,” she added.
Activists say Lacey won’t prosecute law enforcement officers because she receives millions in campaign contributions from police unions.
Lacey Loses Powerful Endorsements
The embattled Lacey is steadfast in defending her record.
“As the first African American woman to hold the LA County DA’s office, I am proud of my record of taking on systemic racism and reforming criminal justice — from bail reform, to reducing juvenile cases by nearly 50%, to increasing our office’s focus on mental health treatment instead of incarceration,” she said.
“I am singularly focused on doing the work of the people of LA County during this time of crisis,” she said on June 21, after Congressman Adam Schiff and Assemblywoman Laura Friedman rescinded their endorsements.
“This is a rare time in our nation’s history. We have a responsibility to make profound changes to end systemic racism & reform criminal justice. @LauraFriedman43 and I no longer feel our endorsement of Jackie Lacey a year ago has the same meaning. We have decided to withdraw it,” Schiff (D-Burbank), tweeted on Saturday, June 20.
Mayor Eric Garcetti is also re-considering his endorsement.
Also last Saturday, her rival Gascon received the endorsement of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who noted he “has been a national leader in criminal justice reform and a powerful advocate for rethinking our approach to public safety and ending mass incarceration.”
At the Saturday protest, Hernandez vowed that she will work “tirelessly to make sure Jackie Lacey is not elected in November.”
“You know you have dirty cops. You know you have killer cops. You need to start criminalizing,” Hernandez said as people chanted “Time’s up Jackie Lacey.”
Deadly Shooting in Gardena
The LAPD is not the only law enforcement agency confronting protests. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is also under pressure after 18-year-old Andres Guardado was killed by a Sheriff’s deputy on June 18.
According to the Sheriff’s Department, Guardado was talking with someone in a car when two deputies on patrol arrived at the Freeway Body Shop, in the 400 block of West Redondo Beach Boulevard, near Figueroa Street.
Guardado is said to have looked toward the deputies and produced a handgun before running down the driveway of the business. Deputies chased him and caught up with him behind the business, where a deputy shot him. He died at the scene.
According to the Sheriff’s Department, Guardado — a security guard — carried an unregistered handgun with an illegal ammunition magazine and was not wearing a uniform or clothes identifying him as a security guard. Authorities say one must be 21-years-old to be a state-licensed armed security guard.
There is no body camera footage of the shooting as the Sheriff’s Department has not deployed them for all deputies. To date, no video about the incident has surfaced.
Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas has expressed concerns about the integrity of the investigation, which is being monitored by the state attorney general at the request of Sheriff Alex Villanueva (who initially discarded the idea), as well as Congresswomen Nanette Diaz Barragan and Maxine Waters. The Sheriff’s Department has put a hold on the autopsy results while the investigation is ongoing.
Guardado’s death has prompted daily protests, including the one on June 21 in Compton when Sheriff’s deputies fired pepper balls and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd, and arrested several people for unlawful assembly.