Witnesses say four officers in downtown L.A. beat a homeless woman who was resisting arrest

LAPD arrest leads to investigation
Witnesses say four officers in downtown L.A. beat a homeless woman who was resisting arrest.
By Tami Abdollah, Times Staff Writer
June 7, 2007

Los Angeles police said Wednesday that they were investigating allegations that four officers beat and pepper-sprayed a downtown homeless woman before tying her arms and legs after she resisted their attempts to subdue her.

Faith Hernandez, 34, who was wanted on a felony narcotics warrant, was approached by several officers about 1 p.m. Sunday because she was in an "illegal" cardboard structure near Gladys Avenue and 6th Street, said Capt. Andrew Smith of the Los Angeles Police Department's Central Division.

"One of our officers approached her, told her she was being detained for that investigation and she immediately took off running," Smith said. "She punched one bicycle officer in the head as he was trying to detain her, and then she kicked several officers. She also spit on several officers, and she attempted to stab the officers that were trying to detain her with an ink pen."

The officers hit her legs with a small police baton, kicked her once and used pepper spray, Smith said.

Four officers — three men and a woman — were involved, he said.

Hernandez, who was charged Tuesday with assaulting a police officer with a deadly weapon, remains in custody in lieu of $75,000 bail. She sustained a half-inch cut to her forehead, Smith said.

Pete White, co-director of the Los Angeles Community Action Network, a watchdog group that monitors the LAPD, said witnesses described the woman as mentally disabled and weighing 90 to 100 pounds. He said the officers startled her by yelling "Hey" and then used excessive force when she ran.

White said several people in Gladys Park witnessed the incident, which lasted about eight minutes. He said they protested by sitting in the street and called his office to complain.

O.C. Hasson, 60, who lives on 6th Street, said that from his bathroom window he saw the woman running away.

"They threw her down, she tried to get back up, and they threw her back down. And when she tried to get back up again they started hitting her," Hasson said. "They allowed her to get up after that, and let her go almost across the street, as if they knew she couldn't get away. And then one of the officers took his foot and tripped her on the ground, and they dragged her a little bit, and they were still beating her."

Hasson said he had seen police harass downtown homeless people in recent months, but nothing like this.

"It's the worst thing that I've experienced," he said, "the worst thing I've ever seen."

White said none of the LAPD's public-safety video cameras in the area provided useable images of the incident, but that the LAPD would review any video from the public.

"I'm hoping a video will surface," Smith said. "We'd love to see a video of this because we think it'd indicate exactly what our officers did" was exaggerated by witnesses.

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