A 38-year-old man killed in a confrontation with LAPD officers in South Los Angeles in April was struck at least six times by police bullets and had detectable amounts of methamphetamine in his blood, according to a report from the LA County Coroner’s office.
Daniel Hernandez was shot in the top of the head, and in the shoulder, abdomen, thigh, and upper back. The deputy medical examiner listed the cause of death as multiple gunshot wounds.
Hernandez’s 14-year-old daughter sued the LAPD earlier this year, alleging the shooting was unjustified and the officer who fired had, “reckless violent and homicidal propensities.”
It happened April 22, 2020 after officers from the LAPD’s Newton Division were dispatched to the scene of a traffic collision at 32nd Street and San Pedro, and after they arrived, Hernandez emerged from a wrecked car and walked toward the officers.
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Segments of police body worn video recordings released publicly earlier this year show officer Toni McBride drawing her pistol, then directing two motorists to leave their cars and get away from the crash scene.
“Hey man let me see your hands,” she said as she first observed Hernandez near a black pickup truck that had collided with other cars. “Stay right there,” she orders, using her free left hand to gesture, ‘stop.’
According to an edited LAPD video presentation posted on YouTube a 9-1-1 caller told police dispatchers that the man who caused the crash appeared to be trying to stab himself, but it was unclear if that information reached McBride or her partner before they began interacting with Hernandez.
“Drop the knife!,” she yelled three times as Hernandez walked into the center of the intersection. More than a dozen bystanders can be seen on the sidewalk. “Stay right there,” McBride commanded.
Hernandez paused, then stepped towards McBride’s position with his arms outstretched to the sides at waist level. “Drop it!,” McBride yelled, then fired twice when Hernandez started to advance. The shooting was captured on both the officers’ body-worn-video cameras and by at least one of the bystanders who was recording with a cellphone.
Hernandez collapsed to the ground, then began to get up. McBride fired four more times and Hernandez fell to the ground face down and stopped moving. None of the other officers at the scene fired their weapons. About a minute and twenty-five seconds elapsed between the start of the video and first shot fired.
The medical examiner reported a total of 7 gunshot wounds on Hernandez’s body, but surmised two of the wounds were caused by a single police bullet entering and exiting his body. A toxicology report showed Hernandez had levels of amphetamine and methamphetamine in his blood. A coroner’s investigator wrote that Hernandez’s family reported he’d had, “a problem with drug abuse.”
“You can clearly see that Daniel Hernandez gets out of a totaled car, walks shirtless, with hands to his sides, he's not making any gestures that's threatening to anyone,” said attorney Narine Mkrtchyan, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of Hernandez’s daughter, identified by initials in court papers.
Mkrtchyan said she’s having the police and eyewitness video reviewed by use of force experts, but said she already believes Hernandez was too far away from McBride to present an imminent threat of harm. She said it is also significant that McBride was the only officer at the scene to fire a gun, and less-than-lethal options, like stun guns, were not employed.
“These are more experienced officers, probably, and they’re not resorting to deadly force,” Mkrtchyan told the I-Team.
The LAPD said Hernandez was armed with a knife, and showed an image of a Husky brand box cutter knife in the video presentation of the incident.
“She does everything she can to preserve life,” said McBride’s attorney Larry Hanna, referencing other portions of the body camera video that show McBride moving motorists away from the scene and backing up as Hernandez initially approaches.
He told the I-Team McBride wanted to speak publicly about the incident but could not due to the ongoing administrative and criminal investigations, as well as the new lawsuit.
“She put her body in front of the citizens who were there and kept telling Hernandez to stop,” Hanna said. “She put out her hand, she did everything she could.”
The case is still being reviewed by detectives at the LAPD’s Force Investigation Division. The findings will be sent to the police chief and the Board of Police Commissioners, who will then weigh-in on whether or not McBride’s actions were within department policy.
The LA County District Attorney’s Office will also decide whether or not the killing was lawful.
Earlier this year McBride removed from public view dozens of social media photos, videos, and messages that appear to show her celebrating her enjoyment of shooting handguns and rifles, and what also appear to be professional modeling photos for shooting and weapons-related products and services.
The attorney who filed the lawsuit told NBC LA those posts were part of what led to the claim in the lawsuit that the LAPD and the City of Los Angeles managed police officers unlawfully, by permitting, “the use of unnecessary, unreasonable and deadly force by…assigning defendant McBride, among others, whom LAPD knew, or who reasonably should have known, to have reckless violent and homicidal propensities to duties which enable such deputies to continue to use unnecessary force.”
“That was very shocking to me,” Mkrtchyan said. “I’ve never seen a police officer enjoying shooting to that degree and joking about it.”
McBride’s attorney disagreed with the characterization of the photos and videos, and said he believed the shooting would be found both in policy and legally justified.
“She joined this department to help people who couldn’t protect themselves,” Hanna said. “There were all these people around here, some frozen in their cars in fear, and this person was coming at them with a knife.”
The LAPD said it does not comment on pending litigation, including this case.