LAPD

Man Alleges Police Used Excessive Force in Confrontation Outside Church

The man seen repeatedly punched by an LAPD officer during a video-recorded confrontation in Boyle Heights has amended the federal lawsuit he filed against the city of Los Angeles, that alleges he was the victim of excessive force during an incident last month outside a church.

Richard Castillo has added new detail to the case he filed in U.S. District Court in light of the LAPD's public release of segments of body-worn-video camera recordings made by the officers involved. The new legal filing adds a more thorough account of what happened April 27 on Houston Street, in which two officers were sent to remove Castillo from a property where he'd allegedly been illegally squatting.

Castillo's complaint now includes some of the dialogue exchanged between himself and the officer who punched him, as captured in the body worn video recordings, and claims the recordings also appear to capture the moment when Castillo says the officer spat in his face.

"This "spitting" sound is further coupled with the DOE Officer's head visibly seen moving forward in a "spitting" motion, with Plaintiff "flinching" in reaction to being hit in the face with "spit...,"  according to the new complaint.

Last week the LAPD released segments of the body worn video recordings in an edited presentation posted on YouTube. The Department has yet to publicly identify the officers involved, but NBCLA has confirmed through a variety of law enforcement sources and public records that the officer seen punching Castillo is Frank A. Hernandez.  

"Ain't nobody getting crazy but you," Castillo can be heard saying on the police recordings as Hernandez orders the man to turn and face a fence to be detained or searched on Houston Street April 27.

"Put your hands behind your back, let's go," Hernandez says to Castillo. Within seconds of Hernandez touching Castillo's hands, the video shows Hernandez's body worn video camera is knocked to the ground.

Hernandez's partner's camera continues to capture a short standoff and an escalating exchange of words that ends with Castillo's challenge to a fight.

"The f*** you think I am," Castillo says. "You're going to f***ing punk me. You f****ing f*****!"

"Don't fight man," Hernandez says, as his partner's camera records her drawing and readying a Taser stun gun. "Ain't nobody fighting," Castillo says as he stands facing the church fence with his hands behind his back. "You keep on man handling me I'm gonna f*** you up!"

Within seconds Hernandez has thrown the first punch and repeatedly yells, "F*** you man," as he slugs Castillo in the head and body.  "F*** you b****," Officer Hernandez says as he swings at Castillo. The police video shows the punching and grappling lasts for about 30 seconds, then other officers arrive and handcuff Castillo.

The LAPD said Castillo refused medical treatment and, after being questioned, was released without being booked or cited on a criminal charge.

Chief Michel Moore directed the release of the video, which would typically be kept confidential because the punching did not lead to injuries serious enough for the department to consider the case a serious use of force.

Moore told the LA Police Commission last week he didn't expect the body camera recordings to change minds about what last week's cellphone video showed.

"This incident is deeply disturbing. I don’t believe what's shown here will change the description of (this incident) by me or others," Moore said.

The chief told the commissioners he expected both the criminal and administrative investigations to be completed within a few weeks. Use of force and misconduct investigations at the LAPD often take many months or more than a year to finish. 

The LAPD does not comment on the merits of pending lawsuits, as a department policy. 

Hernandez's attorney, who also declined to confirm that Hernandez is the officer in the Boyle Heights video, told NBCLA that he believed the officer would be cleared of any wrongdoing.

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