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LAPD officer does not object to videotaped beating of homeless man

A Los Angeles police officer who was caught on video repeatedly punching a homeless man in Boyle Heights two years ago did not object to the assault Thursday, authorities said.

Frank Hernández, 51, will not serve prison time for the crime. He was sentenced to two years probation, 80 hours of community service and a year of anger management classes under the terms of a plea agreement announced during a hearing in a downtown Los Angeles court.

Officers were responding to a break-in call on Houston Street in April 2020 and encountered Richard Castillo. The homeless man, who was a familiar figure in the neighborhood, was ordered to leave an undeveloped lot near a church, according to a statement released by the LAPD at the time.

Video of the incident recorded by a bystander shows Hernandez and his partner confronting Castillo against the lot’s chain-link fence. As one of the officers motions for the man to turn around, Hernandez suddenly tells Castillo to “stop fighting.”

Seconds later, Hernandez unleashes a flurry of blows to the back of Castillo’s head as he yells profanities. When Castillo tried to move a few steps away from the officer, Hernández followed him and continued the assault. Hernández’s partner remains on the sidelines, occasionally extending their hand but not intervening.

The images immediately sparked outrage in Boyle Heights and among other Latino communities in the city. Some residents recognized Hernandez from his role in several shootings.

In one such case, Hernández killed a Guatemalan man in 2010, sparking days of protests and rebukes from Guatemalan politicians, who said the slain man spoke only the indigenous K’iche’ language and could not understand Hernández’s orders. . In 2008, when Hernandez was pursuing a suspect, the officer wound up shooting and wounding an uninvolved 18-year-old.

Hernandez initially pleaded not guilty to the attack on Castillo, and the officer told a Times reporter that he was “fearing imminent danger and acted appropriately.”

Attempts to contact his lawyer on Thursday were not immediately successful. He “parted” from the LAPD in May 2021, according to a department spokesperson.

In a preliminary hearing in December 2020, Hernández’s partner testified against him, according to a transcript of the hearing. Det. Kim Hanna said he had no idea why his partner was hitting Castillo and that the victim had done nothing to provoke him, according to the transcript.

Hanna said she tried to stop Hernandez but couldn’t because of his “wild swings.” Castillo was not seriously injured during the confrontation and refused to receive medical attention.

“Although the victim did not sustain serious injuries, it is not for lack of trying on the defendant’s part,” said Los Angeles County Deputy Dist. Lawyer Christopher Baker said during the preliminary hearing.

Castillo filed a federal lawsuit against the department in 2020, but they shot him to death in El Sereno in September 2021, a week before his plea in the lawsuit, according to his attorney, Wesley Ouchi.

Castillo’s family said they have not received information about an arrest or the motive for the murder. An LAPD spokesman said detectives were “following up on current leads” but did not provide further details about the slaying.

Castillo died of a gunshot wound to the leg, according to medical records provided to The Times by Ouchi, who called Hernandez’s statement a “bittersweet victory” for the Castillo family.

“Any civilian, in the same position as Officer Hernandez, would have received a jail offer from the district attorney’s office,” Ouchi said in an email to The Times. “However, the historic felony charges against Officer Hernandez demonstrate a level of progress in our society that would have been completely unknown just a few years ago.”

Castillo’s uncle, Raymundo Ferreira, said the 30-year-old grew up in Boyle Heights and was well known among store owners and neighbors, often riding his bike in the area. Ferreira said his niece hid the fact that he had been homeless from his relatives, telling them that he was staying with friends when he was actually sleeping in a tent on the lot where Hernández confronted him.

After the assault, Castillo moved in with Ferreira and began working at his Boyle Heights outlet store, Ferreira said. But when LAPD officers repeatedly stopped by the store asking about Castillo in the months after the assault, he began missing work.

“He would come here and help me … but he always told me that he didn’t want to create problems for you,” Ferreira said. “So he stopped coming.”

An LAPD spokesman said the visits were part of the Internal Affairs investigation into Hernandez’s conduct.

“All this time he was on the streets, nothing happened to him,” Ferreira said, teary-eyed outside his store. “Now that I got him to change his life, to start a little bit, step by step, this happened.”