The teenage daughter of a 38-year-old man killed by an LAPD officer in South Los Angeles has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit, claiming the shooting was unjustified and the officer who pulled the trigger had, “reckless violent and homicidal propensities.”
Daniel Hernandez, who was holding a box-cutter style utility knife, was shot April 22 during a confrontation at the scene of a traffic collision by officer Toni McBride, the daughter of prominent police union director and veteran officer Jamie McBride.
According to the lawsuit obtained by the I-Team, Hernandez was unsteady on his feet, “posing no threat to anyone,” when McBride fired. “Each of McBride’s deadly rounds lacked justification and recklessly endangered multiple bystanders,” the suit said.
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Officers had been sent to the intersection of 32nd and San Pedro Streets after several 9-1-1 callers reported a traffic collision, and one of the callers said a man inside one of the cars was trying to stab himself, according to a recording released by the LAPD.
Segments of police body worn video recordings released publicly earlier this month begin as officer McBride arrives at the intersection. It shows her 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.’
“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.
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.
“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 14-year-old 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 edited video presentation of the incident, that also contains portions of cellphone video recordings captured by bystanders.
“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.
In recent weeks McBride has 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 Friday it does not comment on pending litigation, including this case.
The union that represents LAPD officers, the Los Angeles Police Protective League, said, “any loss of life in our city is tragic, and we send our condolences to the family of Mr. Hernandez.”
“It is our expectation that the Department will conduct a fair and thorough review, as it does in all use of force cases, and that the civilian Police Commission will make the appropriate findings based on all the facts of the case,” the League said in a prepared statement sent to the I-Team.